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Particulates – also known as atmospheric aerosol particles, atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter, or suspended particulate matter – are microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air. .
Particle pollution (also called particulate matter or PM) is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.
Particle pollution includes “inhalable coarse particles,” with diameters larger than 2.5 micrometers and smaller than 10 micrometers and “fine particles,” with diameters that are 2.5 micrometers and smaller. These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals. Some particles, known as primary particles are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires. Others form in complicated reactions in the atmosphere of chemicals such as sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides that are emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles. These particles, known as secondary particles, make up most of the fine particle pollution in the world.
Environmental Protection Authorities (EPA) regulate inhalable particles (fine and coarse) as they can cause serious health problems. The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream.