Most people don’t think about the fact that the invisible air we breathe contains different particles such as dust, chemicals, smoke, and allergens. The presence of chemicals and gases contributes to the environmental problem of air pollution and poses a health hazard for humans. Exposure to these particles is inevitable, since people inhale them with oxygen daily. However, it is important to be aware so you can reduce your chances of developing diseases.
What Is PM2.5?
Among the countless particles that make up the air are minute hazards called particulate matter (PM). They come from various sources such as car emissions, power plants, residential burning, and the distribution of chemicals. In indoor spaces, they come from burning candles, smoking, diffusing essential oils, and cooking.
A specific type of particulate matter is PM2.5. The 2.5 in its name refers to its diameter in micrometers. The smallest size the human unaided eye can perceive is 0.01 millimeters, about the size of a hair strand. Therefore, powerful microscopes need to be used in order to see such tiny particles like PM2.5. However, these fine particles may affect visibility, and they may make the air around you look hazy if there are high levels of PM2.5.
Why Is It Dangerous?
While it is already understood that inhaling particles along with air can irritate our system, PM2.5 poses a greater health risk due to its microscopic size. Here are some of the possible dangers you can be exposed to when you inhale PM2.5:
• It can enter your circulatory system.
Due to PM2.5’s size, it can avoid settling in your nose and throat and will penetrate deep into the lungs once inhaled. It can also enter the bloodstream because of how minute these particles are.
• Exposure can trigger or worsen respiratory diseases.
Inhalation of PM2.5 can cause shortness of breath, excessive coughing, and wheezing. It can trigger or worsen respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis. It can also decrease one’s lung health and function once exposed.
• It can lead to heart disease.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, exposure to PM2.5 can cause plaque deposits in arteries, which can lead to eventual inflammation and hardening that may result in heart attacks and strokes. The American Heart Association also stated that being subject to PM2.5 for anywhere from a few hours to weeks can lead to cardiovascular disease-related deaths.
How to Protect Yourself from PM2.5
Low levels of PM2.5 may not affect your health directly. But, when the amount of PM2.5 in your environment reaches an unhealthy level, there are numerous ways to protect yourself against it and prevent the development of diseases:
• Stay indoors as much as possible.
• Close windows, doors, and other openings where air with PM2.5 can enter.
• Avoid burning candles or incenses that emit smoke or gas to prevent other harmful chemicals from building up.
• Invest in air purifiers or HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) units with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. HEPA filters can get rid of fine particles present in the air and won’t release the accumulated pollutants back into the air. Although not all air conditioners have HEPA filters, they can be beneficial when fresh air is in short supply. They can circulate the air in the room and lower the temperature.
• Always schedule regular maintenance checks on your HVAC units with a reliable service provider.
It helps to be more aware of the air you breathe, since it affects your health. You should regularly monitor your indoor air for PM2.5 and other pollutants to ensure that your home is a safe environment. Investing in air purifiers and regular maintenance checks will help protect yourself and your loved ones from PM2.5 and other harmful chemicals.