What is it?Particle pollution is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. These particles range from small particles that are visible to the naked eye (like dust, dirt, smoke, soot and pollen) to ones so small they can only be seen using a microscope. Particle pollution is broken down into three categories: coarse, fine and ultrafine. Coarse particle are between 2.5 and 10 micrometers; this is about the size of dust, pollen or mold spores. Fine particles, such as combusted materials from fires, are 2.5 micrometers or smaller. Ultrafine particles, such as liquid droplets and smoke, are smaller than 0.1 micrometers. These can pass through the lung tissue into the blood steam like oxygen.
There are two different types of particle pollution: They are primary and secondary. Primary sources are things that emit pollution directly such as wood stoves or forest fires. Secondary sources, such as coal fires and power plants, are systems that emit gases that react and form pollution particles. Here is a list of the main sources of particle pollution:
- Wood stoves
- Construction sites
- Power and coal plants
- Nature -- pollen and dust
Health effectsAny exposure to particle pollution may cause harm to your health. The following are some common health effects related to particle pollution:
- Increase visits to the hospital for breathing and heart problems
- Increased asthma symptoms
- Problems with breathing
- Decreased lung growth in children
- Lung cancer
- Early deaths
Anyone can be at risk of particle pollution if the levels are high enough, but the following groups are at risk even at low levels:
- Infants, children and teens because they are still growing and are often active outdoors, where particle pollution is found. Longer term exposure may negatively impact their health.
- As lung and heart disease can be more prevalent in people over 65 years old, this age group is at higher risk because particle pollution will increase the problems related to these diseases.
- People with lung diseases like asthma because the symptoms may increase in severity or the number of attacks may increase.
- People with heart disease or diabetes feel the effects of particle pollution at lower levels than less-sensitive groups.
- People who work or are active outdoors are at a high risk of having long term exposure to particle pollution.