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The Lowdown on Particle Pollution (And What You Can Do about It)

All over the world, nine in every 10 people breathe deadly polluted air. And, it’s claiming the lives of some seven million people every year.

What’s worse, polluted air isn’t only limited to what you breathe when you’re outside. In fact, indoor air in some parts of the U.S. can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air!

Particle pollution, or particulate matter (PM), is much to blame for harmful indoor air. What’s even scarier is that they’re so tiny they can even be invisible to the naked eye. They can already be poisoning your body without you even realizing it!

But what is particle pollution exactly and why does knowing more about it matter? Is there anything you can do to prevent it from affecting your entire family’s health?

We’ll give you the lowdown on PM here, so be sure to keep reading!

What Is Particle Pollution?

Particle or particulate pollution refers to solid or liquid particles in the air. They can also be a mixture of both.

Many of these particles are micro-sized that you can’t see them with your eyes alone. With very high PM levels though, the air can already appear opaque.

Compounds that make up particulate matter include acids like sulfuric acid. It can also consist of inorganic compounds, such as ammonium nitrate. Soot, soil and dust particles, and biological compounds like mold spores are also types of PM.

The Smaller, The Deadlier

All types of particles can affect your health, but it’s the smaller ones that are even more dangerous. For one, because our body’s natural defenses can eject larger particles, like dust and dirt. When we breathe in these particles, our body can cough or sneeze them out.

But particles that have a diameter of fewer than 10 microns get past these defenses. The body can’t get rid of them through the usual means, so they can settle and stay in the lungs. Some are even so small they can bypass the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

How These Particles Pollute Your Home’s Indoor Air

Primary particles are those that come from a direct source, like construction sites. Wildfires are also a huge contributor to air pollution, causing up to 15,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.

Secondary particles are those formed through chemical and atmospheric reactions. These often come from automobile, power plants, and industrial factories. They’re the biggest culprit behind the growing fine particle pollution in the country.

Both primary and secondary particles can enter your home from the outside. But there are activities you do indoors that can cause particle pollution. These include cooking, cleaning, using a wooden fireplace, and smoking indoors.

Everyone Is At Risk

Particle pollution is everywhere, even in air that looks and smells clean. It’s a year-round occurrence and in higher concentrations, can cause lung problems. While everyone is at risk, there are some people who face greater risks, including:

  • Children, from infants to teenagers
  • People older than 65 years old
  • Those with existing lung problems like asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema
  • People suffering from diabetes or heart disease

Particle pollution also appears to shorten the life expectancy of lung cancer patients. A 2016 study looked at 350,000 patients to determine survival rates. They found that those living in highly-polluted places had lower survival rates.

How Particulate Pollution Affects Your Health

Both short- and long-term exposure to PM can affect the lungs and heart and can be deadly. These particulates can worsen existing asthma, irritate the airways, and make breathing difficult. They can also increase risks of heart attacks while decreasing lung functions.

Long-term exposure to high levels of particulate matter is even deadlier, studies found. In this 2000 study, researchers note that PM can reduce life expectancy by up to three years! Also, the higher the particulate concentrations, the higher the risks for lung cancer.

What You Can Do Now to Prevent Indoor Air Pollution

Something as simple as reducing clutter can already help control indoor air pollution. Other easy pollution prevention steps are to fix water leaks and keep trash covered. Frequent vacuuming and avoiding air freshener use can also help.

But there are other steps to make the air inside your home cleaner and fresher, including:

Quit Smoking (Or At Least Don’t Smoke Inside the House)

Cigarette smoking isn’t only a leading cause of cancer — it’s also behind indoor air pollution! The smoke they emit contains particles, which can settle on furniture and carpeting. The more someone smokes inside your home, the more polluted the air will be.

While it’s best to quit smoking altogether, stopping right away can be difficult. But you should at least prohibit smoking inside the home.

Switch to Natural or Organic Household Cleaners

Some types of household chemicals, like toilet bowl cleaners, can pollute the air in your home. These harsh chemicals can also contain harmful Volatile Organic Compounds. They can irritate your nose, airways, lungs, and even your skin.

So, make the switch to greener, more natural household cleaning products now. These contain far fewer air pollutants but still help you keep your home sparkling clean.

Invest in High-Quality Air Filters

Get better air filters, like fiberglass or electrostatic filters, for your HVAC system. These are more effective in clearing indoor air of pollutants than traditional filters. HEPA filters are also great options as they remove up to 99.97% of particulates with a diameter of 0.3 microns or bigger.

But also make sure that you wash or replace filters in your home on a regular basis. Dirty air filters can no longer trap pollutants, and can even send them back into the air. That air will keep circulating inside your home, making you breathe contaminated air.

Don’t Let Particulate Matter Make You Suffer

Particle pollution kills, and it’s time that you care about your home’s indoor air. The sooner you follow our tips, the earlier you can breathe cleaner, fresher air. Don’t let yourself and your loved ones suffer from air pollution any longer!

Ready to get your home some of the best air filtration systems around? If so, then be sure to check out our ultimate guide on air filters!

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