Every breath we take could contain a hidden danger that’s often too small for us to see or even notice. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) might sound like another technical term, but its implications are far-reaching and affect us all. The body is, however, good at protecting against these hidden dangers. Southern Scientific Services has been closely following the latest research in this field. In a recent study published in October, researchers delved into the world of PM2.5, uncovering its effects on newborns worldwide from 1990 to 2019. Let’s take a closer look at their findings and why they matter to all of us.
What is Fine Particulate Matter?
Fine particulate matter, commonly called PM2.5, is a term that might not ring any alarm bells for most people. But, these minuscule particles are named fine particulate matter (PM2.5) because they measure 2.5 micrometres or are smaller in diameter. Fine particulate matter can potentially pose a significant health risk to newborns. They’re so tiny that they can be inhaled deep into our lungs, and some can even enter our bloodstream. Picture this: dust, smoke, soot, and small droplets hanging in the air around us. These seemingly innocuous particles are PM2.5 and are everywhere, even if we can’t see them.
- From a health perspective, fine particulate matter is the most critical pollutant in Ireland.
- It is estimated to cause ~1,300 premature deaths in Ireland annually.
What Causes Fine Particulate Matter?
- Fossil Fuels: The burning of fossil fuels to heat homes.
- Inefficient Burning Process: The inefficient burning process in stoves and open fires releases unburned particles into the air. This pollution is inhaled by individuals and communities, leading to adverse health effects.
- Burning of Bituminous Coal: Burning bituminous coal, often called “smoky coal,” has significantly contributed to air pollution, especially during winter. This type of coal combustion is linked to the formation of smog, consisting of various chemicals and particulate matter, which can cause respiratory illnesses and related health problems. Those with conditions like asthma, including many children, are particularly vulnerable. Bituminous coal burning releases significant amounts of fine particulate matter.
- Petrol and Diesel: Nitrogen oxides, or NOX, encompass gases such as nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both harmful air pollutants resulting from the combustion of petrol or diesel in internal combustion engines. NO2 is particularly concerning due to its significant health impacts.