What is particulate matter?
Particulate matter consists of tiny particles with a diameter of less than one-hundredth of one millimeter, which is about one-tenth of the diameter of a human hair. These particles are also referred to as PM10 and are released in large quantities during combustion processes. They are mostly created by industrial plants, traffic and heating.
Their small size and chemical composition make them a threat to our health. The particulate matter can be carried deep into our lungs and cause various diseases there, from a chronic cough to lung cancer. In areas with a high exposure to particulate matter, people inhale about 50 million particles with every breath they take.
The problem of particulate matter in the atmosphere is not new, but people have only started to pay attention to its effects on our health a few years ago. Urban areas with a high population and traffic density where topography and climate favour the accumulation of particles in the atmosphere are especially affected.
Constantly Exceeding the Limits
The European Union and Germany have set limits for the PM10 concentration in the atmosphere: in the EU, the limit for the annual mean is 40µg/m³.
In addition, the daily limit of 50µg/m³ may only be exceeded once, or 35 times respectively (EU). Unfortunately, measurements show that these limits are exceeded constantly, which means that a part of the population regularly inhales excessive amounts of harmful particulate matter.