I have travelled to parts of Asia on numerous occasions – Delhi in summer, Beijing in winter, it doesn’t really matter the time of year - my body can sure tell I am in a different part of the world.
I first notice a difference in my skin, I get eczema-like bumps and rashes on my face, then I notice breathing changes. What’s going on? PM2.5 is what is going on and boy, can it provide havoc with our health.
PM2.5 stands for particulate matter that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres. Basically, PM2.5 are tiny particles that are >100 times thinner than a human hair. In areas of high PM2.5, the air starts to look hazy, the particles are so light, they stay in the air, distorting our vision clarity (larger particles tend to settle on surfaces).
PM2.5 are a mix of solid and liquid particles which are a result of burning fuel and chemical reactions that take place in the atmosphere. Natural processes such as forest fires can also contribute to PM2.5 in the air.
My immediate reaction to PM2.5 exposure, is to sneeze, in fact, even as I fly through the smog layer, into Beijing airport, my nose starts to twitch. But, scientific research shows that extended exposure to PM2.5 is far more serious than a few sneezes. For every 10ug/m3 increase in PM 2.5, there are increases in childhood asthma rates and lung and heart disease rates - reviewed here and here.
What can you do to avoid PM2.5? Good air filters in homes and masks when out and about in times of peak traffic are advisable - we love Lanaco’s high quality, multi-use, sustainable wool face masks here. Also, try to travel and exercise during times where there is less traffic and less PM2.5 in the air - especially if you are already suffering from poor lung health.
We hope that the move to electrifying vehicles and away from industrial coal reduces PM2.5 air pollution. One thing we know for sure – don’t take your respiratory health for granted, especially if you work in the construction or other industries where you might be exposed to fine particulate matter.
Mask up, goggle up and look after number one!