Indoor Air Quality & Particulate Matter

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Particulate Matter
& Indoor Air Quality

Particulate matter, also referred to as PM, is the name for a wide range of particles that are small enough to be carried by the air and be inhaled by people. It can be a solid or liquid, or even a mixture of both. These tiny particles may range from 0.005 µm (micrometers) to 100 µm in diameter. Very small particles pose the greatest threat to human health because they can travel deep into human lungs.

Fine particulate matter can be found in both outdoor air and the air in homes and buildings. In addition to outdoor air making its way into a structure, many indoor environments also have sources of fine particulate matter. Common indoor sources include:

  • Furnaces
  • Unvented Space Heaters
  • Cooking Stoves
  • Woodstoves
  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke
  • Mold Growth

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Some studies also suggest that long-term PM 2.5 exposures may be linked to cancer and to harmful developmental and reproductive effects, such as infant mortality and low birth weight." Depending on the type, concentration and amount of time a person is exposed to particulate matter, they may experience health effects that could include: eye, nose, and throat irritation; respiratory infections and bronchitis; and even lung cancer in some circumstances.

There are steps people can take to reduce concentrations of particulate matter in their home. They include:
  • Make sure furnaces and ventilation systems are operating properly
  • Use an exhaust fan when cooking.
  • Make sure chimneys are operating properly and that woodstoves are properly sized and their doors fit snuggly.
  • Don't allow people to smoke indoors.
  • Remove any indoor mold growth and fix the moisture problem so that the mold doesn't return.