What is PM10?
PM10 is suspended coarse particulate matter, either solid or liquid, with a diameter of 10 micrometers (µm) or less. For comparison, a human hair is, on average, 50 to 70 µm in diameter.1
Particulate matter is sometimes referred to as floating dust or aerosols. Fine particles can remain suspended in the atmosphere from days to weeks, allowing the materials to travel over long distances. Larger particles are soon returned to the surface due to precipitation and gravity.
Filtering out particulate matter is essential to cleaning the air.
What is the difference between PM2.5 and PM10?
The difference between PM10, PM2.5 is a matter of size. PM2.5 is very fine, and PM10 is larger and coarser than PM2.5.2 Because PM10 is a larger particle than PM2.5, it’s less likely to cross from the lungs into the bloodstream. However, PM10 can penetrate deep into the lungs.3
Where does PM10 come from?
PM10 is any particulate matter in the air with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less, including smoke, dust, soot, salts, acids, and metals.
Particulate matter can also be formed indirectly when gases emitted from motor vehicles and industries undergo chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Various sources include:4,5
- smoke, dust and dirt from unsealed road, construction, landfill, and agriculture
- dust that blown from open lands
- smoke from wildfire and waste burning
- sea salt
- industrial sources
- materials handling
- crushing and grinding operations
- power generation
- motor vehicle exhaust
In the home, particle pollution comes from many sources, such as:5,6
- outdoor sources leaking in through spaces around door and windows
- space heaters
- fireplaces and chimneys
- tobacco smoke
PM10 and PM2.5 chemical and physical composition varies based on location, climate, and weather.
A 2014 study published in The Pan African Medical Journal provided insight into one seasonal source of PM10 in low socioeconomic communities.7 The study, conducted in eMbalenhle, South Africa, found that residents were more at risk of PM10 exposure in the winter due to domestic fuel burning. Coal is the dominant source of fuel for townships in South Africa because it is accessible and inexpensive.8,9
eMbalenhle is surrounded by industry, power stations, and mines, while there is a good deal of motor vehicle traffic, mine ash dumps, and dust from agriculture, wildfires, waste burning, landfills, and unpaved roads.
How does PM10 affect our health?
Health effects of PM10 exposure can vary. The body tends to eliminate larger particles, while PM 2.5 can stay embedded in the lungs.11 However, both PM2.5 and PM10 harm human health.
Short-term health impacts of PM10 can include:
- difficulty breathing
- eye, nose, and throat irritation
- chest tightness and pain
- general respiratory discomfort
Long-term exposure to PM10 can cause more serious health concerns, such as:
- lung tissue damage
- heart failure
- adverse birth outcomes
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- premature death
People most impacted by PM10 air pollutants include children, older adults, and people with heart and lung disease.
What can be done about PM10 pollution?
To help reduce PM10 emissions in the community, people can take the following steps:
- advocate for clean air legislation
- advocate for low-emission zones
Many countries seek to reduce PM2.5 and PM10 air pollution. For example, in 2019, India joined the United Nation’s Climate and Clean Air Coalition with a stated goal of reducing particle matter pollution by 20 to 30 percent by 2024. The country launched the National Clean Air Programme in mid-2019.12
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association found that creating 48 low-emission zones in Berlin, Cologne, and Munich Germany reduced PM10 particles by an estimated 10 percent.13
At home or at work, people can help control particulate matter emissions in several ways, including:14
- driving less
- control humidity to slow mold growth
- clean with a mop, damp cloth, and HEPA vacuum
- don’t permit smoking in the home or facility
- reduce the use of candles and incense
- conserving electricity
- avoiding burn wood or trash
- avoiding outdoor wood boilers
- never idle your vehicle in attached garages or near windows and doors
- never use either generators or barbecues indoors or inside attached garages.
- run a room air purifier to filter PM10 from an indoor space
- install a whole-house air purifier to remove PM10 throughout your home
- facilities can install high-efficiency air filters in commercial facilities and schools for their HVAC unit
- monitor your air quality indoors and out
What are the environmental effects of PM10?
PM10 reduces visibility and, in some cases, can corrode organic and inorganic materials from vegetation to buildings. Painted surfaces, stone, fabrics, metal, and wood can become damaged and discolored.15,16
When particulate matter is deposited on vegetation and soils, it can leach nutrients and increase the chances plants succumb to disease.
Even though there have been improvements made to air quality through regulations, the world’s cities struggle with air pollution’s human and financial cost burden. Check out our Cost of Air Pollution counter and uncover how clean air can help preserve health and life while alleviating harm to the global economy.