INDOOR AIR POLLUTION: DANGER LEVEL #3: Allergens And Particulates

Although the detrimental effects of air pollution on human health have been brought widely to public notice, it appears that less attention has been given to the potential role of toxic air pollutants like allergens and particulates.

Airborne particulate matter consists of both solid particles and liquid droplets of different sizes, compositions, and origins. They can range from small molecules less than 0.001 μm to pollens and spores ranging from 2 to 50 μm, and very large visible dust particles in the range of 1000 μm.

These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals. Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires. Most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.

Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream. Think about a single hair from your head. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle (PM2.5)

Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5), also known as fine particles has a diameter of 2.5 micrometers and is the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in most parts of Ghana. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including:
* premature death in people with heart or lung disease
* nonfatal heart attacks
* irregular heartbeat
* aggravated asthma
* decreased lung function
* increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.

People with heart or lung diseases, children, and older adults are the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure. Beware of the danger posed by dust pollution and avoid exposure, as it can have a build-up effect albeit can be acute too. Stay safe!

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About author

Hakim Tabas

Hakim Tabas is Health, Safety and Environmental Practitioner with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Occupational safety, Health and Environmental Management from GIMPA, Ghana. He thinks of Health and Safety as a calling and is very dedicated to the practice. He is affectionately known by colleagues and friends as Don Tono.

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