Health Effects of PM-10 Particulates

PM10 particulates are respirable and are the focus of most air pollution control regulations.  When inhaled, these fine particulates can cause serious health problems.

In the pulmonary airways, particulate matter is trapped by mucus and drawn upward and out of the lungs by ciliated cells.  Once particles get beyond the ciliated airways (as is more likely with finer particles), they are likely to remain in that part of the lung, possibly causing inflammation.  There is a likely connection between PM10 inhalation and increased risk of cardiovascular problems.  Lung inflammation has been linked to increased pro-coagulant production and increased blood viscosity, and this has been shown to occur during periods of high air pollution.  Blood clots are usually the cause of heart attacks and strokes.

PM10 is toxic even at very low concentrations.  The reason for this is not necessarily that the material itself is toxic, but that PM10 generally contains a certain amount of ultrafine particles (< 0.1 micron) which are toxic due to their very high surface to mass ratio.  Besides causing chronic lung inflammation, this particle fraction can leach heavy metals and cause damaging free radicals to be produced.