How PM 2.5 and PM 10 can destroy you Completely: A Noob’s Guide.

PM 2.5 and PM 10, we are hearing these two words a lot recently, in connection with the Air Pollution during Diwali. Do you know what does it mean exactly?

This might be a bit long post, but I guarantee you that it'll be an eye opener for anyone who doesn't have a clear idea of these things and why are they so harmful for us. PLEASE DO READ.

I recently asked this to my friends and many of them had an unclear to absolutely no idea about it. Well, as an Environmental Biotechnology student, I feel I should make all of you aware of this. And mind you, its damn serious.

So, here we go:

The full form of PM is Particulate Matter, also called Suspended Particulate Matter or SPM.

Anything that has a mass and takes up space is a Matter. Particulate Matter means Matter in the form minute separate particles.

All solid and liquid particles suspended in the air contributes to PM. This includes dust, smoke, pollen, soot, fly ash, aerosols, fumes, mists, condensing vapours etc.

Now, let's come to the nomenclature: PM 2.5 and 10.

PMs are classified into two types, Coarse PM and Fine PM, depending on the size of the PM.

Coarse PMs are the ones having size ranging between 2.5 - 10 μm, also called PM 10. Fine PMs are the ones having size ranging 2.5 μm or below, also called PM 2.5.

(Btw, 'μm' stands for micro metre or, 1×10^-6 m)

As you can imagine, its too tiny to be perceived by Human senses. And by now you have understood that PM 2.5 is more tiny in size.

What's the Impact on Humans?

So why are we concerned about PM 2.5 or PM 10?

Seen those people wearing masks and celebrating Diwali by burning firecrackers. Well, the irony is, PM 2.5 is so tiny that the standard masks available in the market can’t filter it out. Slow Claps to those fools who thought they got saved!

PM 10, is however, can be prevented by wearing a mask. But you know what? Our body has its own filtration system for PM 10.

It gets filtered in our nose and throat whenever we inhale, in turn causes nose irritation or throat irritation. (As I type this, I am experiencing both of these, thanks to the increase in PM 10 in my area)

But what about PM 2.5?

That's alone sufficient to damage and destroy you.

It will penetrate through the mask and enter your body. Even your throat or nose can't prevent it.

When we inhale air, it enters our lungs. Our lungs are like Vacuum Cleaner, it filters our inhaled air and help the oxygen to enter the Red Blood Cells (RBC).

The PM 2.5 being so tiny can't be filtered properly and mixes with your bloodstream which then makes its way to your heart before being transported to other parts of your body via your blood.

Just think, each and every cells of your body is taking up blood containing PM 2.5. So it can remain anywhere in your body, forever. There's NO PROCESS to bring it outside.

As the heart and lungs are affected, it can cause cardiovascular effects like heart attacks and respiratory effects like asthma, bronchitis or even lung cancer (as they can cause DNA mutations by going deep inside a cell).

PM 2.5 is the perfect example of slow poison.

So, before you go on celebrating Diwali, just think of yourself. We are just slow poisoining ourselves year after year. It will affect none but us only.

What's Air Quality Index (AQI)? 
Its basically a number that signifies the air pollution level in terms of PM 2.5 count. It has a complex calculation, which I won't discuss here.

But here's the chart that we generally refer to:
1-50: Safe
51-100: Minimal discomfort to Sensitive people (child / old)
100-200: Moderate
200-300: Poor (Breathing discomfort to most people)
300-400: Very Poor (Respiratory Illness on Prolonged Exposure)
400-500: Severe (Affects healthy people with respiratory diseases)
500+: Hazardous (People should leave the region immediately)

This year, the PM 2.5 count in New Delhi went to 999 (probably more, but 999 is the maximum measurable limit for the monitors). So, you can get an idea of the level of damage it did to us humans.

But should we ban firecrackers completely?

Nope. Not necessarily. But, community celebrations are required so that a large community of people can burst crackers together and thus reduce the amount of pollution caused.

That's all. If you are still here, then thanks a ton for reading my post. I would request you to please share the post with your friends and make them aware of this as much as possible.

Only self-awareness can help us prevent it, no court ruling will. So, please teach others. Thank You. :)