Advertisement

What is particulate matter?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Particulate matter differs from ozone, carbon monoxide and other pollutants in that the term does not refer to a specific chemical but rather a very complex mixture of numerous particles of varying sizes and chemical properties. In general, the higher the concentration of particulate matter of a certain size, the more likely you are to have premature heart and lung disease. The smallest and midsized particles seem to be the most potentially injurious.

Particles that are 10 microns or less in diameter (PM10) are the most easily transported via air (larger particles fall to the ground quickly) and therefore are the most commonly measured particles when analyzing air pollution. Of these, particles in the range of 0.1 to 10 microns are most readily breathed in and retained in the lungs. In fact, the most recent research is focusing upon particles in the 2.5 and smaller micron range (PM2.5) as being perhaps the most important for human disease.

Particles that are smaller than 0.1 micron but greater than in the nanotechnology range are breathed in or out, thus, not retained in the lung. These sized particles do not seem to cause immune dysfunction in the lung, making them less of a problem. Particles greater than 10 microns rarely make it into the lungs -- your cilia in your airways block their entranced and clear them out.
The RealAge Makeover: Take Years off Your Looks and Add Them to Your Life

More About this Book

The RealAge Makeover: Take Years off Your Looks and Add Them to Your Life

Why not live at 60 feeling like you did at 35?Thousands of Americans are younger today than they were five years ago. How is that possible? By following the specific recommendations that reverse...

Continue Learning about Air Quality

Why is air pollution so dangerous to lung health?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
Air pollution caused by particulate matter so small that it can't be seen is what aggravates and lea...
More Answers
How does eating fish protect my heart from air pollution?
RealAgeRealAge
In this ever more polluted world, sometimes you just can't avoid a little bit of particulate matter ...
More Answers
How can I check air quality each day?
HealthCorpsHealthCorps
Thanks to recent technology, the EPA and the National Weather Service have developed downloadable ap...
More Answers
How important is air quality for my health?
Pam GroutPam Grout
Yes, the quality of the air you breathe is important. Get outside at every opportunity. Think how wo...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.