Particulate Matter: Why Should You Care About It?

May 9, 2019
Smoke in black background

Utah’s topography and climate make it susceptible to a weather phenomenon called an inversion. It happens when a mass of warm air descends over a colder air, sealing it somehow. It then prevents the dirt and smog from rising.

It increases air pollution, which can affect people’s health. But there’s one more thing to remember when you talk about inversions (and other types of air pollution): particulate matter.

What Is Particulate Matter?

Not all dust or dirt particles in the air are the same. Some of them are coarse particles, which usually come from much bigger particles that break down. These are the ones you can see with your naked eyes.

Then there are the fine particles, which are so small you’ll probably need an electron microscope. These are the ones that become particulate matter. Also known as PM, it is a combination of liquid droplets and very fine solids suspended in the air.

How small are they? They can measure at least 10 micrometers. The smallest ones called PM 2.5 are about 2.5 micrometers. To give you a better idea, your hair strand is more than 25 times bigger than these particles.

Their size is the primary reason why they are dangerous. You can inhale them and find their way into your respiratory system, especially the lungs. It can then trigger different conditions.

How Dangerous Is Particulate Matter?

Based on the data gathered by the American Lung Association, chronic exposure to these kinds of particles can shorten your life by up to three years. It can also increase your risk of the following:

    • Higher infant mortality or lower birth rate
    • Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and events
    • Early development of asthma among children, especially those who are 14 years old and below
    • Poor growth of the lungs and development of their function among teens and children
    • Increased risk of hospitalization among children

Your Home Can Be a Source

Chimney sweeper on the roof of a house in an attempt of chimney sweeping

Usually, when people think about particulate matter, they immediately imagine car exhausts and smoke from factories. What they don’t realize is their home can be a source as well. A good example is a wood-fueled fireplace.

If you have this type in your home, then you need someone who specializes in a fireplace in Salt Lake City. This is because smoke, dust, and soot can still accumulate even if you’re not using it.

When the wind blows, it becomes part of your indoor atmosphere, and you and the rest of your family can inhale it. You can reduce your exposure with particulate matter from the fireplace in two ways. One, you can consider other options such as gas or electric. A fireplace specialist can change it on your behalf. The other is to choose your wood well. You may also look for fine screens that can help filter the particles.

Particulate matter is dangerous to your health. What you don’t know is you can inhale it without your knowing it at the comforts of your home. Reduce your exposure or avoid it completely by paying attention to the sources, such as the fireplace.

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