January 18, 2022
Ever noticed a yellow smog or wildfire haze? That dirty, smoky air is made of particle pollution. Overwhelming evidence shows that particle pollution – especially the smallest particles – can increase the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma attacks and can interfere with the growth and work of the lungs.
What is PM2.5?
Particulate Matter refers to a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles like dust or soot are visible to the naked eye, others are so small they require an electron microscope to be seen.
PM2.5 are fine inhalable particles with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (a human hair has a diameter 30 times larger!). These particles – from exhausts, industrial processes, and smoke – enter indoor spaces through HVAC, doors and windows, and “leakiness” in building structures. Particles can also originate from indoor sources like pollens, mold spores, and cleaning products.
Why measure PM2.5?
PM2.5’s small size allows it to bypass many of our body’s defenses. Unlike larger (and more visible) dust particles, PM2.5 can permeate membranous tissue and travel into the bloodstream and lungs. Short term exposure has been linked to throat irritation, coughing, and difficulty breathing. More serious, long-term health effects can include respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer.
PM2.5 is especially dangerous for people with heart and lung diseases, older adults, and children, but it has also been proven to affect healthy people.
The impact of wildfires
While PM2.5s have decreased in the United States over the past decades, wildfire-prone areas see tremendous, episodic spikes. Breathing high concentrations of PM2.5 can increase the risk of asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes.
Keep your building healthy
Use air quality data from Awair to monitor PM2.5 and develop indoor air quality purge sequences and policies for high PM2.5 events.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that tens of billions of dollars are lost every year due to low office air quality impacting the health of office staff. The science of indoor air is so important that a report published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health cited indoor air as one of the nine key foundations of a healthy office building.
Crowded classrooms, meetings in closed door conference rooms, working from your makeshift WFH office with poor ventilation - all of these scenarios can cause high CO2 and significant decreases in cognition and productivity.What is carbon dioxide?Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas that is measured in parts per million (ppm). A by-product of our metabolic process – we add CO2 into the air every time we exhale – it’s often used as an indicator of adequate building ventilation.