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What is particulate matter?

What is particulate matter?
Posted on 24-3-2020 by Felix Dijkmeijer

Fresh and clean air contributes to good health. Unfortunately, air quality has only deteriorated in recent years. A well-known air pollutant is particulate matter. Although you cannot see these particles with the naked eye, they can (seriously) damage your health. With a particulate matter (PM) meter you will gain insight into the amount of PM that is present in and/or around your home. In this way you will become aware of the air you breathe every day and you may be able to take measures to reduce the number of dust particles.

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter includes all suspended particles smaller than 10 micrometres. Part of this dust is caused by a chemical reaction in the atmosphere (secondary dust particles), but the main culprit is mankind. Consciously and unconsciously, 'we' produce an enormous amount of particulate matter. You are probably aware of air pollution from means of transport, cattle farms and factories. But did you also know that a large part of the fine dust is caused by cleaning agents, fireplaces, printer ink and cigarette smoke?

Particulate matter is referred to as PM, we distinguish 3 types of PM's:

  • PM10: dust particles between 2.5 and 10 micrometers. Together with other substances, this particulate matter can cause smog.
  • PM2.5: dust particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres
  • PM0.1: dust particles smaller than 0.1 micrometer. Here we also talk about ultrafine particles.

Because particulate matter is so small and light, it often remains in the air for a long time. The chance that you will inhale these particles is therefore high. 

Particulate matter and health

Both PM10, PM2.5 and PM0.1 can enter the respiratory tract through breathing. The smaller the dust particles, the deeper they can penetrate into the lungs. Where PM10 usually doesn't get further than your throat, PM0.1 can even reach your lung vesicles and enter your bloodstream. Dust particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres are the most dangerous, but even larger dust particles can damage your health. If you are exposed to a lot of particulate matter, you can suffer from complaints such as breathing problems, coughing, headaches and tiredness. It can also have a detrimental effect on the blood vessels and the heart. Some particulate matter is not or hardly harmful to your health, such as sea salt and desert sand.

Eleminiating particulate matter

You can usually not see, feel or taste particulate matter. The only way to find out how much particulate matter is present in the air is to measure it. Using a particulate matter meter you will get a good picture of the indoor and/or outdoor air quality, after which you can possibly take measures to reduce the number of dust particles. With the use of a air purifier you can eliminate the particulate matter out of the air.


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