How does the Particulate Matter measuring work?

We have discussed the definition of PM in another earlier blog, so you might already be aware what PM stands for. But just in case, here is a short summary again:

PMstands for Particulate Matter. Particulate Matter are airborne particles which can have an adverse impact on the health of any living being.

Now, there are different measurements for particulate matter. It usually ranges from PM 10 down to PM 0.3, however, the PM 0.3 is not officially measured yet. You will have a hard time finding it on any official reading of PM. The tools to measure such small particles are either super expensive, or they can’t measure exactly enough yet or they can’t measure it at all.


What types of PM’s are being measured?

But what does it mean when you read about PM 10, for example? Well, we already know what the PM abbreviation stands for:Particulate Matter. The number that is added after PM, refers to the size of the particles that are being measured. For our example, 10 means that the particulate matter sizes are 10 microns, or 10 micro millimeters. While this is already small, it’s usually quite visible to the human eye. It does not require a significant pollution level for the air to get blurry. And the sun, that is if there is sunshine, will appear a bit foggy. As mentioned in our other blog, the best part about the PM 10 particles is that they are actually not that harmful for the human body. The human body is able to get rid off PM 10 after some time, that is if one stays clear of air pollution. Otherwise, they will be just replaced by new ones, again and again.

If we though speak about the PM 2.5 particles, we need to consider that they are a lot more harmful than the PM 10. They are also called fine particles. While they are only 25% of the size of the PM 10, they enter your body and will never get out of it again. In fact, they are so small that they can penetrate your bloodstream through the lung’s vessels. The human body unfortunately does not have that special function to expel and clean your blood again. Because these fine particles are getting stuck in your most precious body system, they can lead to cloaked veins and arteries. We all know what happens if your blood doesn’t flow to certain parts of your body! Body functions will be impacted. And if it hits the wrong part of your body, the heart artery or the brain veins, it can get real nasty and lead to heart attacks or strokes. More about it further down in the blog.

Well then, let’s talk a short bit about our latest culprit, the PM 0.3. These nano particles, as they are called as well, only relatively recently appeared in scientific research. BBC has made a research and the scientific findings are somewhat scary (LINK). They have apparently been linked to Alzheimer and/or Dementia. How is that possible, one could wonder? Since these nano particles are extremely tiny, only 1/8 of the PM 2.5, they find an even easier way into your body: with every breadth through your nose into your brain. Once there, they will not so easy leave your body again, and cause havoc in your brain area. But don’t get the wrong impression about PM 0.3. They are also entering your lungs and create a similar impact on your bloodstream, if not worse, as the PM 2.5. Unfortunately, the research about PM 0.3 is just in its baby shoes, so it’s hard to give you a clear statement at this time.


Readings of PM and how to interpret them

Finally, it is time to talk about the more important detail of how is PM actually measured and what does it mean for you.

For example, what does a reading of 300 for PM 2.5 represent? To be more specific: what does the 300 figure stand for? To put it in simple terms, imagine a 1 square meter cube (1m x 1m x 1m) around your head. In that cube, you will find all sorts of pollutants, chemical or physical particles. For the PM 2.5 measurement, the number 300 refers to how many fine particles are to be found in that 1 sqm cube around your head. Most likely, there won’t be 300 soon after because you will have inhaled the majority of them. But don’t wane yourself in false hopes. The 300 particles in this cube are a constant. Right after, this same cube around your head will again be filled with 300 fine particles, and on it goes.

So, as long as the air isn’t getting any cleaner, ie. a reduced PM 2.5 reading is put up on the board, you will always breath in the same amounts of particles. In our case, there are somewhat 300 particles which might enter your body with each breath you draw. A human being, not doing sports, takes about 23’000 breaths a day. Therefore, you will inhale roughly 6.9 mio (or 69 lakhs) fine particles every day. Sounds scary? It is scary…and consider that we only discussed a PM 2.5 reading of 300 which is not all that bad, yet. Levels of PM 2.5 can easily reach 900-1000 and in some cases even go higher. The problem is that the hardware used for measuring PM usually stops at 1000. Anything above is only a good guess at this point of time.


Let’s take a look at the impact from PM 2.5 on human beings

Considering the amount of particles that a human inhales every day, this can cause many sicknesses. It’s quite comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes per day. And if you do both, then you rather watch out for yourself. It could create a rather huge havoc on your body, even early on in your life, ranging from simple breathing problems all the way to heart failure. In between you will find a range of sicknesses that will impact your lifestyle, your wellbeing as well as your family.


From Asthma to Heart Failure

Let’s be more specific about the kinds of disorders that outdoor pollution can create. I suggest we start with the least significant one: asthma. Whereas this is usually a genetically transferred condition, this can also be created by air pollution. Asthma is caused by inflamed and narrowed airways. It’s usually chronic and can only be treated in a few cases.

Chronic bronchitis on the other hand shows signs of inflamed lining of the bronchial tubes. These tubes are moving air from and to your lungs. If these tubes can’t suck in or release enough air anymore, you will feel a shortness of breath. Foremost, Chronic bronchitis leads to fatigue and malaise, and is one kind of COPD which brings us to the next disorder.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, aka COPD, entails nothing more than a group of lung disorders. Due to the weakened immune system, it leads to more frequent infections of your respiratory tract and is usually associated with shortness of breath. In most cases and after having contracted COPD, physical exercise won’t be possible anymore. And if you do you might experience a complete lung failure.

The not so nice two candidates are the following: brain strokes and heart attacks. Very likely, they are going to cause you a rather drastic change to your life, one that you might not even remember. With the earlier, the likelihood of waking up is rather small and even if you do, you might not be the same person as you were before. Time, knowledge, and people won’t matter anymore because there is a chance that you are in coma. With the latter, there is only a very slight chance that you ever will see the daylight again, and only given the help arrives in a few minutes from having had a heart seizure.


How can you solve that problem?

The simple but effective solution to all these dangers is not so far away. An N95 PM 2.5 anti pollution facemask comes in handy. Not just in times of heavy pollution are these masks a life saviour but also against other airborne sicknesses such as influenzas, colds, Zika, as well as Tuberculosis.

Let’s hear your thoughts on this subject. Write us back at the soonest. This subject needs a proper and detailed discussion.

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