Monday, May 2, 2011

Why some gases are Deadly Dangerous-PM

The last post asked what we'd do if we had to make a choice between the environment and some of our life giving activities. It is a tough choice to make. At a certain point in time will we have to make that choice? Not if we modify our activities to benefit both - us and the environment.

To be able to do that we first need to understand what exactly human activities have been responsible for.

To date what we've done is, taken a resource from the earth, used it to make whatever's useful and ended the process there. We haven’t had to think about what by-product we’ve created.

All too often this has been a pollutant that poisons our air, waters and soil and damages our health.

4. This article tells us why particulate matter or PM is deadly dangerous for our health. It helps us understand why it shouldn’t be the end product of our activities.


Google Free Image Courtesy
Particulates, alternatively referred to as particulate matter (PM) or fine particles, are tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas. The variety is huge.
  • Sulfates, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon, mineral-dust and water.

  • Dust, dirt, soot, smoke and liquid droplets directly emitted by factories, power plants, cars, construction activity, fires and natural windblown dust.

Sources of particulate matter can be man-made or natural. Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, living vegetation, and sea spray.

Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and various industrial processes (déjà vu?) also generate significant amounts of PM. Sulphur compounds react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form particulate matter or PM.

Why does Particulate Matter affect more people than other pollutants?  

Particulate Matter penetrates deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs because they are easily inhaled and can cause or worsen respiratory disease, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and can aggravate existing heart disease by penetrating deep inside our arteries, leading to increased hospital admissions and even premature death. The smaller the PM, the greater its ability to penetrate deep inside our bodies.

Besides affecting our health PM can also
• damage materials
• clog stomata openings of plants and interfere with photosynthesis. This can stunt the growth of plants or even kill them.
• contribute to acid rain formation.
• form atmospheric haze that degrades visibility.

Facts and figures about PM that are a cause for concern:

The most concentrated PM pollution tends to be in densely populated metropolitan areas in developing countries. 

The primary cause is the burning of fossil fuels by transportation and industrial sources. 

Photo by Thunderror

Traffic exhaust is the single most serious preventable cause of heart attack in the general public. 

Children, seniors, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory diseases are most susceptible to these health risks.
In developing countries, exposure to pollutants from indoor combustion of solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves increases the risk of acute lower respiratory infections and associated mortality among young children. 

Indoor air pollution from solid fuel use is also a major risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer among adults.

All images from here


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Some other gases that are dangerous to humans. Click on each

Carbon Monoxide  

Carbon Dioxide  

Sulphur Dioxide  

Nitrogen Dioxide  

Acid Rain

Particulate Matter  

Ground Level Ozone and Odours

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