What Is Particulate Matter?

What Is Particulate Matter?

Particulate matter (PM) are tiny particles found in air including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid particles that are suspended in air for long periods of time. These particulates are emitted by natural or man-made sources involving combustion activities (motor vehicles, power plants, industrial processes) and can have a wide range of sizes. Exposure to PM 2.5 can impact a child’s respiratory health by affecting lung function and lung growth. It can have short term effects like ENT irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. It can also worsen existing conditions like asthma and heart diseases.

Children are particularly sensitive to PM 2.5 as they have a larger lung surface area in relation to their body weight. They also breathe more air per body weight compared to adults. Particles with diameters less than 10 microns are called PM 10 and are a health concern as they can accumulate in our respiratory system. Particles with diameters less than 2.5 microns are referred to as PM 2.5 and they pose the greatest health risk since they can lodge deeply inside the lungs.

The Clean Air Act identifies primary and secondary standards for outdoor emissions. Primary standards “provide public health protection, including protecting the health of "sensitive" populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly” while secondary standards “provide public welfare protection, including protection against decreased visibility and damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings”.

According to the EPA, PM 10 has a primary and secondary standard of 150 µg/m3 (24h averaging time) while PM 2.5 has a primary and secondary standard of 35 µg/m3 (24h averaging time)

Not only are outdoor emission levels important to consider for particulate matter, but so are indoor emission levels. Sources of indoor PM 2.5 include smoking, wood-fire stoves, cooking, and cleaning. Adequate ventilation such as using fans when cooking or opening windows helps lower PM 2.5 levels. 

Having accurate, quick response, high resolution PM 10 and PM 2.5 sensor devices are important to have in indoor environments for effective monitoring. Real-time datasets will give users a measurement of particulate matter concentrations in their environment so they can be aware and ultimately, reduce these concentrations. 

The BlueJay, our indoor air monitoring device

Ambience Data continues to serve laboratories, institutions, and municipalities through our BlueJay monitor equipped with PM 2.5 and PM 10 sensors to assess working conditions and employee health. Our work in health and safety, green buildings, and mould moves the health industry forward in terms of indoor air quality monitoring.

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