PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM µg/m3), which has a diameter of less than 2.5 microns, equivalent to approximately 3% of the diameter of a human hair. The particles are so small that they are commonly only measurable through electron microscopes.
These fine particles come from a variety of sources. From plant dust, motor vehicles, airplanes, forest fires, sandstorms, agricultural and agricultural burning, among others.
Why is PM2.5 Dangerous?
Because they are so light and small particles, they tend to stay longer in the air compared to heavier ones. This increases the probability that these particles will be inhaled by people or animals. Particles of this size can enter through the nose, pass through the throat and penetrate deep into the lungs; some can even reach the circulatory system.
Various studies have linked exposure to fine particles with premature death related to heart or lung disease. These can also activate or worsen chronic diseases such as asthma, enhance heart attacks, bronchitis, among others.
The American Heart Association has warned about the impact of PM2.5 on cardiovascular health and mortality: “Exposure to PM2.5 fine particles over a few hours to weeks can trigger fatal cardiovascular problems and other non-fatal events of respiratory character ”. A longer exposure (e.g. a few years) increases the risk of cardiovascular mortality, even greater exposures of a few days reduce life expectancy within the most exposed segments of society in a few months or even years ”.
PM2.5 is one of the main pollutants most monitored by health authorities around the world. To get an idea, on a very clear day without haze, the concentration of PM2.5 can be as low as 5 μg / m3 or even lower. On the other hand, a PM 2.5 concentration greater than 35.4 μg / m3 is considered unhealthy or unhealthy.
When it comes to evaluating the impact of PM2.5 on health, it is important to measure it in consistent 24-hour periods. This is due to the fact that the potential damage caused by this type of particle does not depend only on the concentration but also on the duration of the exposure. The more you are exposed to PM2.5, the greater the risk of developing adverse health effects from exposure to the pollutant.
PM2.5 levels are harmful to health, which is why it is necessary to take preventive and/or corrective actions. The following table shows the PM 2.5 ranges, health effects, and preventive actions to consider. It is based on air quality standards for particulate pollutants published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (2016, US-EPA).
Air Pollution in Mexico
IMCO (Mexican Institute for Competitiveness) estimates that in 2018, Mexico lost due to poor air quality close to 20 billion pesos (~ 1.0 billion US dollars). Additionally, more than 103,000 hospitalizations and more than 6 million medical consultations were generated only in that year, in addition to the 17,700 deaths associated with poor air quality. What Mexico can and should do to reduce this environmental violence?.