Air Pollution: The difference between PM2.5 and PM10 and the impact on hay fever sufferers

As part of our blog series on air pollution we talk more about what exactly air pollution and particulate matter is. 
Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health (and the planet as a whole). 

The two most prevalent types of air pollution are smog and soot (or particulate matter). Smog comes from combusting fossil fuels reacting with sunlight. Particulate matter (PM) is made up of tiny particles of chemicals, soil, smoke, dust and allergens. They take the form of gas or solids and are carried in the air. 

The difference between PM2.5 and PM10

Particulate matter can be divided into two main categories: PM2.5 and PM10. They are not visible to the human eye but they can pass from our lungs into our bloodstream. 

PM2.5 are 2.5 micrometres in diameter which is approximately 3% of the diameter of a human hair. They are produced from types of combustion - for example cars and other motor vehicles, forest fires, and industrial processes. Because of their small size, PM2.5 can penetrate the respiratory tract and reach directly to your lungs. 

PM10 is considered less harmful due to its size - it is 10 micrometres in diameter and therefore coarser in size. 

PM10 tends to stay in the air for minutes whereas PM2.5 particles can linger for days.

Short term effects: 

Nose, throat and lung irritation as well as coughing, sneezing, runny nose, wheezing and shortness of breath. People with asthma may find symptoms exacerbated.  People with pre-existing lung and heart problems, pregnant women, children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM2.5 

Long term effects:

Stroke, lung cancer, respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease leading to a reduced life expectancy. 

The impact of air pollution on hayfever

Pollen allergies affect between 10-40% of the world’s population according to the World Allergy Organisation. Pollution, such as vehicle emissions, create a smog that can trap pollen and therefore prevent it from moving up into the upper atmosphere. Pollen then lingers longer than it would normally, triggering bad bouts of hayfever for sufferers. Moving vehicles can throw up dust into the air as they travel - which can mix with pollen and make it airborne. Hay fever is likely to be twice as common in urban zones because of the air pollution caused by traffic and vehicle fumes. Via avogel.co.uk 

We shared our top tips on how to avoid air pollution in the city which included our CYCL Pollution Scarf that filters out 99.9% of PM2.5 and is washable and reusable. It’s also great for allergy sufferers - helping to block out the inhalation of pollen that irritates hay fever. 

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