What is PM 2.5? PM 10?
The World Health Organization has declared that Delhi has the more pollution floating around in their air than Beijing, China and is ten times more polluted than New York City! The readings of 153 micro-grams of contamination per cubic meter of air, means people have problems breathing normally and that is not good for anyone.
The problem with these readings is that many of the polluters actually lie about their emissions and the testing equipment is notorious for being poorly calibrated. The unit of measure that is used is the PM 2.5 levels. This is the measurement of particles that are 2.5 microns in size. This is often the same size as organic organisms that can become inhaled and cause medical conditions to worsen.
This term, particulate, is an important term to understanding cleanliness or lack thereof. Any substance, whether solid or liquid, that is suspended in the air is counted as particulate matter pollution. This particulate pollution, different with other major air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon or nitrogen oxide and ground level ozone, is defined by their sizes and not their chemical makeup. The importance of the measurement of 2.5 is that the smaller the size, the more damage can be brought to humans and other living things as it is breathed in.
In the United States, through the Clean Air Act, we monitor all of the above substances and that is why we have some of the cleanest air in the world.
The Effects of PM2.5, PM10
One of the big problems with these particulates is that you can not see the individual pieces with the naked eye. They combine together to create a haze and used to be seen hanging over many American cities as late as the 1970’s. The Epidemiologists are concerned about two different sizes and test for them, especially, now for this study in India. Those two are the 2.5 (2.5 microns) and the 10 (10 microns) sizes.
Much of this pollution comes from, of course, road dust and by stone processing and other crushing operations and these are PM 10 pollutants. The smaller pm 2.5 particles come primarily from the combustion of fuel, such as from fireplaces, cars, trucks and coal-fired power plants. (This can also be found in the car-crazy Southern California areas that continue to have some of the worst pollution in the United States.) Other American areas are Pittsburgh for their coal-fired plants and the wood stoves used in places such as Fairbanks, Alaska.
The human body defends it itself against many of the PM 10 particles, as tiny hairs along the respiratory tract filter these out. They are often expelled from the body through sneezes and coughs. The problems exists with the smaller (pm 2.5) particles. Your body can not block or filter them out as effectively, again, because of their size. They get inside and go right to your lungs. They can, through the action of the respiratory system, get into your blood stream as well.
This is where size, does, indeed, matter. In air pollution, it is what you can not see that can definitely hurt you. In a time where all countries are being looked at to determine the dangers they pose for their populations and to the entire planet, India has a lot of work ahead of them.