Air pollution: What is PM2.5 and how does it harm our health?

As fine particles(PM2.5) is much smaller than inhalable coarse particles(PM10), its negative effects on human health is more severe although both particles are harmful.

By Salome Phelamei | Last Updated: Dec 08, 2015, 19:38 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei

New Delhi: The national capital of India has been grappling with high levels of dangerous particulate matter (PM) post Diwali celebrations, posing serious health risks to humans – especially children, the elderly and people with compromised immune system.

Also Read: Delhi's toxic air: How to keep safe from respiratory infections!

But, what exactly is particulate matter?

Atmospheric particulate matter - also known as particulate matter (PM) or particulates - is microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in the Earth's atmosphere, which can adversely affect human health.

Also Read: Delhi air pollution: 5 ways it will impact your health

PM is a complex mixture that may contain soot, smoke, metals, nitrates, sulfates, dust, water and tire rubber.

The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems - PM10 refers to the bigger particles and PM2.5 stands for the smaller particles.

Health effects of particulate matter

As fine particles(PM2.5) is much smaller than inhalable coarse particles(PM10), its negative effects on human health is more severe although both particles are harmful.

When we breathe, PM2.5 can get deep into your lungs and some may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to fine particles can affect the heart and lungs. Other health effects include –

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat
  • Aggravated asthma
  • Development of chronic respiratory disease in children
  • Nonfatal heart attacks
  • Premature death in individuals with existing heart or lung disease, including death from lung cancer