What are PM 2.5 and PM 10, and How are They Harmful?

What are PM 2.5 and PM 10? Well, these are the most talked-about PMs ‘other than’ PM Modi. Jokes apart, PM in the Scientific world stands for Particulate Matter. To be more precise, these are minute particulates that are present in the air and cause health hazards. The increased levels of PMs in the air can lead to breathing problems, burning in the eyes, and more. So, what exactly are these ‘sneaky little particles,’ and what can you do about them? Let us find out: 

Particle pollution or particulate matter is a mixture of solid particles in liquid droplets. These are suspended in the air and cannot be viewed by the naked eyes. These are so minute that they can only be detected using an electron microscope. Hence, particle pollution comprises two deadly types that are categorized as PM 10 and PM 2.5. It is because of the presence of these pollutants that the air somehow feels ‘too heavy to breathe. Also, the pollution levels of a place are calculated according to the percentage of presence of these pollutants. Have you observed that the climate and ecosystem of a certain place or city to be ‘spoiled’? Mainly it is due to the increased levels of PM 2.5 in the air of the place, which is more deadly. Not just that, it is also because of a PM that the visibility of a place is affected. This is mainly because how the light is absorbed and scattered is greatly altered by the increased presence of the PM. Has your city ‘gone hotter’ than before lately? Well, blame the PM for this too. Generally speaking, the presence of a certain PM mixture that includes components like Black Carbon. Likewise, a dip in the general temperatures of a place is due to the presence of PM components that comprise Nitrates and Sulphates.
Similarly, the presence of metal and organic compounds in PM alters the vegetation of a place, gravely affects the overall ecosystems. These depositions are absorbed by the plants, which affect the quality and growth of a species. So, now you see that it is the presence of these ‘invisible’ aspects of ‘human doing’ that affects the natural rhythm of nature.

The Invisible Devil

Speaking of which, they are all around you, affect you, and you can never actually ‘see’ them. So, how small are these PMs after all? So small that these can only be detected with the help of an Electron microscope. The numbers here indicate the measurement of the diameter of the particulate. For example, PM 10 stands for Particulate Matter with a diameter of 10 Microns or even less. The worst part is that, though the PM is very much solid, it behaves like a gas and is inhaled by the human system. Now, why do these have varying dimensions? It is mainly because of the different sources of emission these arise from.

The PM 2.5 Pollutant

PM 2.5

This stands for Particulate Matter of diameter 2.5 Microns. This PM type is emitted from the combustion of gasoline, diesel fuel, oils, and woods.

The PM 10 Pollutant

PM 10

This stands for Particulate Matter of diameter 10 Microns. This PM type is emitted from the dust arising from construction sites, landfills and burning of agriculture waste, wildfire, industrial combustion, winds from open lands, bacteria, and pollens.
Interestingly, the PMS is not entirely ’emitted’ from a certain source. As the Universe is ‘nature’s lab,’ a lot of Chemicals are ‘formed’ very much here. Hence, when certain secondary particles in the form of gases like Sulfur Dioxide react with Organic compounds, a PM is created. These Organic compounds are emitted from natural sources like trees, vegetation, industrial processes, and vehicle emissions. For a better illustration of the size of PM, one can imagine that these are much smaller than the diameter of a single human hair. A Human hair has a diameter of 50-70 Micrometer, which makes it a ‘giant’ compared to the PM. This is why it is so easy for the PM to enter your respiratory system and cause havoc. Once settled within the Lungs, the PMs cause health issues like tissue damage, Lung inflammation, and more.

Inside Out: The Problem Everywhere

Most people believe that they can escape the effects of PM once indoors. That is not true at all. The bad news is that the PM is air-borne and can infiltrate just about anywhere possible. This is what makes PM 2.5 so dangerous. These are ‘sneaky little monsters’ that can invade your home by leaking through spaces in the doors, windows, and other building structures.
Interestingly, the PM 2.5 can also originate from biological sources. These include Pollens, Spores, mites, Cockroaches, smoking, burning of wood, and also cooking. One must beware that certain cleaning agents also emit PMs, like air fresheners.

The Escape Plan

Usually ‘the smaller the problem, the greater is the risk. Likewise, PMs have managed to become major concerns for Health experts, environmentalists, and the general public as well. However, there are certain levels of ‘tolerable’ pollutant tolerance in the air. This value has been determined by the experts keeping in mind the overall human health, immunity, and healthy tolerance levels:

For PM 10: normal levels should be 100 micrograms cubic meter

For PM 2.5: normal levels should be 60 micrograms cubic meter

Now that you know the health hazards due to the PMs, it is time to revive the preventive measures. Let us take a look at how we can save ourselves from the ill-effects of the vicious PMs:

    • Watch out when the pollution levels are high. Avoid outdoor activities in such a case.
    • Try and avoid burning of woods, trash outdoors, or otherwise. These greatly contribute to the increased PM levels. 
    • Quit smoking. Yes, you harm the environment too, along with your Lungs.
    • If you cannot avoid the infiltration of PMs indoors, a good quality Air purifier is a good idea, especially in a city like Delhi.
    • If you still cannot escape the health hazards from PMs, and are greatly affected by it, try locating to another city or place for a while. 

Final Note:

Here are a few questions and their answers you should be aware of: 

Ques 1. Which are worse, PM10 or PM 2.5?

Ans: PM 2.5 is more deadly, as it can easily travel indoors as well. 

Ques 2. What does PM 2.5 air quality mean?

Ans: The term refers to Particulate Matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less, which is present in the air of a certain place or city at a specific time as per expert surveys.

Ques 3. What is an anti pm 2.5 mask?

Ans: These are the N95, N99 masks that are designed to block 95% to 99% of PM 2.5 particles from entering the human systems. 

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