Dangers of Infectious Particulate Matter
One of the most pervasive and dangerous types of air pollution is particulate matter because we can inhale it. As a result it can adversely affect our health because airborne pathogens can easily invade our throat, esophagus and lungs. Our body has few ways of defending against this, which will be covered on these web pages, “Aerosolization” and “4 Methods Pathogens Use to Enter Your Body”.
Particulate matter is comprised of particles so tiny they can bypass our normal defenses in the throat, nostrils and esophagus, which usually offer adequate protection against airborne pathogens. Airborne particulates of any size can be harmful to your health.
Types of Particles
Primary particles – Particulates that come from farms, smokestacks, fires, windstorms, construction sites, dirt roads, and climate change resulting in ongoing drought conditions.
Primary particulate matter can often be seen by the naked eye and includes:
- Other very fine particles
- Secondary particles – Particulates that can’t be seen without using an electron microscope. People with perfect 20/20 vision can only see particles larger than 20 microns. Secondary particles are smaller and thus cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Pathogens can exist inside a liquid droplet or attach to a particle of dust or spore and these are airborne and can travel and circulate in the air for hours due to the following:
- Exiting air currents
- Gravitational force
- The electrical charge of the airborne particulate in relation to its surroundings (opposite charges attract and similar charges repel). A positive-charged particle can hover over a positive-charged floor waiting for a tiny amount of airflow to become airborne again.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) webpage, “What Are the Six Common Air Pollutants?” provides a clear explanation as to why people’s health has been damaged and their immune system cannot fight-off pathogen viral infections.
The following are examples of normal/abnormal types of airborne pollution (composed of solids, liquids, and gases) and their health effects.
- Ozone (O3) – Harvard School of Public Health studies about increases in hospital admission for respiratory problems caused by elevated ozone levels.
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)– Acute respiratory illness in children may increase due to frequent exposure to high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide. NIH (National Institute of Health) scientific studies.
- Particulate Matter (PM-10 and PM-2.5) – CDC studies reveal:
1.) Breathing and respiratory systems are adversely affected by particulates.
2.) Studies link damaged lung tissue, cancer, and possibly early death due to particulate matter pollution.
3.) Elderly, children, and those with chronic lung disease, asthma, or influenza, tend to be very sensitive to the effects of particulate matter.
- Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) – Agency of Toxic Substances & Disease Registry explains how high concentrations of SO2 can adversely affect those with asthma, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease (bronchitis or emphysema), especially children, and the elderly.
- Lead (Pb) – Once led is inhaled or ingested, it builds up in the bloodstream, bone and soft tissues. Prolonged exposure can cause anemia, kidney disease, neurological problems, behavioral disorders, reproductive problems, developmental delays and/or learning disabilities. Mayo Clinic in-depth report.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) – Exposure to elevated CO levels is linked with visual impairment, reduced work capacity, decreased manual dexterity, lowered learning ability, and problems performing complex tasks.