Key Differences Between PM 2.5 vs PM 10

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Airborne particulate matter differs in size: The smaller the particle, the greater the likelihood of severe health damage. PM 2.5 is the smallest form of particulate matter and can cause more severe health impacts than PM 10 particulate, which is larger and more coarse. However, building managers must monitor both types to maintain healthy indoor air quality levels. Office workplace with laptop and smart phone on wood table and london city blurred background

Have you ever looked at a sunbeam and seen the thousands of particles floating through the air? These particles are always present, and while some are harmless, many others can cause significant health damage after long-term exposure, including premature death.

Well, when it comes to this particulate matter (PM), it turns out that size does matter. PM size can influence how much it impacts human health, so it's important for building managers to understand the different PM classifications. 

Below, we'll discuss the difference between two harmful air pollutants: PM 2.5 vs PM 10. Though both forms of air pollution are similar in nature and smaller in diameter than a strand of hair, they originate from different natural sources, have different health effects, and require different meditation tactics. 

PM 2.5: Fine Particulate Matter

What is particulate matter 2.5? Particulate matter 2.5 is tiny dust or liquid particles suspended in the air. The number, 2.5 indicates the size of the particle. In this case, PM 2.5 is particulate matter measuring below 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Putting this into perspective, a piece of hair measures 50-100 micrometers in diameter. 

The size of PM is important because the smaller it is, the bigger the health impact when inhaled. 

This fine dust mainly originates from burning fossil fuels, such as car emissions, forest fires, and industrial processing. During this process, organic chemicals like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide form and release into the atmosphere, which can cause a litany of terrible health effects. 

Health Effects and Environmental Impact

Smaller particles pose more significant threats because the body has more difficulty filtering them out. As humans breathe in the fine particulates, they root deeper into vital organs, penetrating the lungs and traveling to the bloodstream. 

Some of the major health effects from breathing PM 2.5 include:

  • Respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic bronchitis
  • Exacerbation of lung disease
  • Exacerbation of heart disease and increased risk of heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease

The particles are undetectable to the naked eye, making them impossible to spot. To make matters worse, many of these substances interact with other atmospheric compounds, like ozone. This intermingling creates more harmful chemical reactions, which can lead to further health damage. 

Given how minuscule it is in size, PM 2.5 can infiltrate nearly any environment, leading to detrimental environmental effects. These negative environmental particulate matter effects include: 

  • Depleting soil and water nutrients
  • Creating toxic water supplies
  • Contributing to acid rain

Enough PM 2.5 particle pollution can ravage entire ecosystems and create toxic environments, both indoors and outdoors. 

Measurement Techniques and Standards 

PM 2.5 is highly dangerous. Health experts state that levels must stay below 12 μg/m3 to eliminate health risks. Luckily, processes exist to test and monitor for particulate matter air pollution.

For PM 2.5, fine-tuned indoor air sensors are excellent at continually tracking PM 2.5 levels. This allows building managers to spot rising concentrations early so they can investigate the root causes and eliminate them before they become dangerous. 

There are also one-off techniques for measuring PM 2.5, such as aerosol sampler kits. These kits test the air, measuring for micrograms of PM per cubic meter. However, this method is limited, as it provides levels at only one point in time. So, using a high-quality particulate matter sensor that constantly funnels data into a software program is more effective.  

PM 10: Coarse Particulate Matter

Unlike particulate matter 2.5, particulate matter 10 is larger and coarser. Although these solid particles are still minuscule and hard to detect visibly, it's easier for the human body to filter them through nasal and throat passages. 

The sources of PM 10 mainly consist of secondary particles from construction sites, landfills, and forest fires. PM 10 can also come from natural sources like sea salt and pollen. Indoor sources of PM 10 include indoor fuel combustion, such as candles, furnaces, gas stoves, and indoor smoking.  

Health Effects and Environmental Impact Compared to PM 2.5

While less threatening than 2.5 PM, inhaling PM 10 still carries health risks. The main health issues that PM 10 can cause include:

  • Asthma attacks
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Decreased lung capacity and functionality
  • Enhancement of existing respiratory disease
  • Inflammation of airways

The environmental effects of particulate matter of this size are less severe than those of PM 2.5, but still impactful. For example, PM 10 causes visibility issues when present in high concentrations, and can even penetrate soil and seriously damage ecosystems. 

Measurement Techniques and Standards

Similarly to PM 2.5, the best way to measure PM 10 is through a particulate matter sensor. It's important to understand that not all air quality systems deliver results with the same accuracy. Often, cheap sensors can make miscalculations if calibrated incorrectly. A poor sensor can also fail to distinguish between particle size, which can be the difference between major and minor health impacts.  

For this reason, it's essential to invest in and maintain the best possible network of indoor air quality sensors. 

Get the Best IAQ Monitoring Solution Available

In the last few years, the emergence of IoT has popularized low-cost PM sensors embedded inside Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) monitors. However, it's hard for consumers to know if the embedded PM sensors in their solutions are high quality. That's where AttuneIoT comes in.

Attune offers an immensely comprehensive, future-forward solution for maintaining indoor air quality. Our indoor PM sensors are incredibly accurate and provide building managers with real-time PM-level data. Negating air pollution is all about visibility, and Attune provides building managers with the hyper vision to spot particulate matter and eliminate it at the source before it wreaks havoc. 

Our platform is fully customizable, measuring a comprehensive range of PM sizes. Best of all, its seamless and rapid integration makes it a scalable and enterprise-ready solution for buildings, homes, and construction zones of all sizes. 

Interested? We're ready to put our money where our mouth is. If you want to see our product in action, sign up here to schedule a demo.

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