Small But Deadly !

Just like water, air too is essential for life. In the past few decades, the air quality has been on a downward spiral due to pollution. The effects of air pollution on human health and the environment are not unknown to us, we know the typical sources of air pollution, but do we know what's making our air so toxic?

In our city there are five main contributors to air pollution, namely, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, ground-level ozone, carbon dioxide and sulphur and nitrogen oxides. In this article we’ll discuss more about the least ‘Chemically’ sounding pollutant, particulate matter.

Particulate matter, also known as PM as the name suggests is made up of a mixture of extremely tiny and hazardous particles suspended in the air. Dust, soot, pollen easily fall under this category but event even minute particles or droplets of chemicals can form particulate matter.

The dangerous nature of these particles lies not only in their source but also in their size. Most cannot be seen without a microscope with the exception of some categories of dirt and dust. But the real problematic PM come in two size ranges, PM10 and PM2.5. The size of these particles is measured in micrometers (𝛍m), which is as tiny as 1/7th of the human hair. The numbers 2.5 and 10 stand for the sizes less than or equal to 2.5 and 10 micrometers respectively.

Particulate matter can get absorbed by your lungs while breathing and so pose a significant threat to your heart and lungs. A number of studies have even linked exposure to particulate matter to a reduced lifespan. On the ecological front, particulate pollution also affects the health of our water bodies, making lakes and streams acidic and changing the nutrient balance of oceans and rivers amongst a variety of other issues.

One way of reducing the particulate matter content in our city is to reduce the usage of vehicles fueled by diesel, as combustion of diesel leads to PM2.5 emissions. We can reduce the use of fuels by switching to biofuels or using public transportation or walking short distances. A lot is being done to monitor the damage done by this type of pollution pollution, but if we really want to rectify this problem, everyone needs to pitch in to make sustainable lifestyle choices.

Ishani Mehta

Programme Assistant