What is Particulate Matter?
The term PM is used to describe the mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. It is measured in micrometres – smaller particles are known as fine particulate matter or PM2.5 and have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres or one 400th of a millimetre wide. PM2.5 typically makes up two thirds of all particulate matter.
PM2.5 consists of microscopic particles unseen by the human eye, containing combustion particles, organic compounds, and metals. It can be detected in the air of both outdoor and indoor environments.
Particulate matter where particles measure less than 10 micrometres in diameter are known as PM10. Roadside levels of PM10 have been gradually declining due to reductions in vehicle emissions.
How PM2.5 affects our health
PM2.5 are easily inhaled due to their size and can adversely affect our respiratory and circulatory system. They can cause problems in the lungs, heart, and throughout the whole body, raising the risk of stroke and heart disease.
It has been scientifically proven that PM2.5 causes changes in lung cells which can increase the likelihood of them becoming cancerous tumours.
Can PM2.5 be avoided?
Whilst particulate matter is everywhere, there are steps you can take that will help to reduce your exposure to PM2.5.
How to reduce exposure to particulate matter outdoors
- Use the Air Quality Index Visual Map in real time to check air quality near you.
- Check levels of air pollution in your area – you can check your postcode.
- When air pollution levels are high move inside, especially if you have a lung disease.
- Avoid physical activity that induces fast and deep breathing in high pollution areas, such as jogging alongside a busy road.
- Use back streets and travel at off peak travel times (when air pollution is likely to be lower), especially in towns and cities.
- If air pollution is high wear a N95 or higher face mask.
How to reduce exposure to PM2.5 indoors
- Avoid smoking and inhaling cigarette smoke. Non-smokers living with smokers also inhale high levels of PM2.5.
- If you operate a wood burning stove, make sure it complies with the latest guidance and ensure the logs are well seasoned and not damp.
- A good alternative to logs is 100% wood eco log briquettes which emit lower levels when burnt and are better for the environment. They also burn more slowly than most timbers.
- Use an air purifier in your home that has a HEPA filter to remove fine particles.
- Open windows regularly to cross ventilate rooms and improve indoor air quality (unless air pollution is high outside).
- Avoid burning candles, incense or other items that emit smoke or gas that increase carbon monoxide levels within the home.
- Get an air purifier for your car that has a HEPA and activated carbon filter. Normal car filters do not filter traffic exhaust fumes or small particulate matter.
- Increase fish oils, vitamin C, vitamin E and B vitamins to help combat effects of exposure.
- Keep well hydrated.