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The dangers of PM (Particle Matter)

Particulate Matter

Dust consists of tiny solid or liquid particles suspended in the air, originating from factories, vehicle emissions, burning, volcanic eruptions, and more. The time dust remains in the air before settling depends on the particle size, with smaller particles staying suspended longer. Dust may accumulate in calm weather, like Thai winters, increasing health risks due to higher concentration.

Types of dust

Dust varies in size, from large particles that quickly fall to fine particles that can stay suspended in the air for a long time, making them easy to inhale.

type of dusts
  1. Total Suspended Particulate is large-sized dust with a diameter of 100 micrometers or larger. It is generated from combustion sources like coal, factories, furnaces, etc.

  2. PM10 (Coarse Particle) is a type of particulate matter with a diameter ranging from 10 to 2.5 micrometers. It is generated from activities like road traffic, material transportation, and crushing or grinding operations, such as rock crushing, etc.

  3. PM2.5 (Fine Particle) is particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers. It originates from vehicle exhaust, power plants, industrial facilities, and cooking emissions, and can also result from chemical reactions involving gases like SO2, NOx, and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).

  4. PM0.1 (Ultrafine Particle) is extremely small dust that can linger in the air for days or even weeks and travel long distances. It has both physical and chemical properties that depend on its location. These particles can contain sulfates, nitrates, ammonium, organic ions like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride, carbon compounds, metals such as cadmium, nickel, vanadium, and lead, as well as biological substances like allergens and various pathogens which can found in PM.

When comparing various particles, from sand grains to hair strands and dust, we find that dust particles are extremely small, so cannot be seen with the naked eye. Furthermore, the filtration capacity of our nose hairs cannot effectively filter out these tiny dust particles.

Particulate Matter
Dangers from PM (Particle Matter)

Regardless of the type of dust, it has a significant impact on the health of those exposed to it. Dust particles, including those with acidic properties, can lead to respiratory irritation and inflammation. According to Dr. Thunwadee Suksaroj, an expert at the ASEAN Institute for Health Development, Mahidol University, "PM10 particles are smaller than a hair's width and can enter the windpipe, while PM2.5 particles can enter the lung's air sacs. Even smaller PM0.1 dust can penetrate the bloodstream and be carried to organs like the liver, kidneys, heart, and brain." A study in the United States confirmed that individuals exposed to high levels of dust or toxic particulates have a 70% higher risk of cancer. In Thailand, the Siriraj Hospital Medical School reported that cancer is the number one cause of death, with eight people dying every hour from various types of cancer, such as lung, liver, and bile duct cancer. While there have been campaigns encouraging healthier lifestyles, such as reducing sugar and salt intake and quitting alcohol and cigarettes, it's essential not to forget the contribution of air pollution, including fine dust, to various health issues. This includes conditions like diabetes, kidney and liver diseases, and Alzheimer's disease.

Therefore, it is advisable to avoid staying in places with airborne dust or smoky haze. If necessary, use a face mask covering your mouth and nose when in areas with dispersed fine dust. When indoors, consider installing a high-efficiency air purifier (find guidelines for selecting quality air purifiers here). For individuals with pre-existing conditions like respiratory illnesses, heart problems, allergies, or asthma, it's essential to have necessary medications readily available in case of exacerbations. If you experience symptoms such as chest tightness or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention promptly.

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