Particulate Matter – Health Effects

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Gaurav Dhawan
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PARTICULATE MATTER – HEALTH EFFECTS
Particulate Matter (PM) or fine particles, are tiny subdivisions of solid or liquid matter suspended in a gas or liquid. Particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, living vegetation, and sea spray. Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and various industrial processes also generate significant amounts of aerosols. Averaged over the globe, anthropogenic aerosols currently account for about 10 percent of the total amount of aerosols in our atmosphere. Particle pollution includes "inhalable coarse particles," with diameters larger than 2.5 micrometers and smaller than 10 micrometers and "fine particles," with diameters that are 2.5 micrometers and smaller. How small is 2.5 micrometers? Think about a single hair from your head. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle. The effects of inhaling particulate matter have been widely studied in humans and animals and include asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular issues, and premature death. The size of the particle is a main determinant of where in the respiratory tract the particle will come to rest when inhaled. Because of the size of the particle, they can penetrate the deepest part of the lungs. Larger particles are generally filtered in the nose and throat and do not cause problems, but particulate matter smaller than about 10 micrometers, referred to as PM10, can settle in the bronchi and lungs and cause health problems. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including: * increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or...
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