We may not even see them, but tiny particles, particulates in the PM2.5 size range, are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract. PM2.5 infiltrates the lungs, all the way to the alveoli, where oxygen is transferred into the bloodstream. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, or PM, can cause grave trouble with one’s health.
Emissions from traffic and poor choices in transit are one of the major causes of our dangerous air. Fresh air, a precious commodity, disappears as many fossil-powered cars, trucks, buses, and off-road vehicles (e.g., construction equipment, snowmobile, locomotive) emit fine particulates from their tailpipes.
A US study published online in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine signals that, as levels of ozone and fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) rise, more patients end up in the ER. The study looked at the levels of these two pollutants in 869 counties in the week prior to an ER visit for a breathing problem. The study included nearly 40 million ER visits for breathing problems from the counties, which represent 45 percent of the U.S. population.
The authors wrote that their study findings support the Environmental Protection Agency’s “determination of a likely causal relationship between PM2.5 and respiratory effects and a causal relationship between ozone and respiratory effects. Increased levels of fine particulate matter resulted in increased visits for asthma, acute respiratory infections and pneumonia.