Particulate matter in the air is becoming more of a problem with the increasing prevalence and intensity of bushfires in Australia, which can lead to serious health issues.
Elevated levels of ultrafine airborne particle matter, known as PM2.5, from bushfires (and any other wood smoke) can be extremely harmful to your health. PM 2.5 particles are tiny particles that are small enough to enter your bloodstream and penetrate vital organs, including the brain.
At the time of writing this article, PM2.5 levels in Sydney are 30 times above the recommended maximum concentration levels.
Too small to be seen, PM 2.5 particles are half the size of most bacteria and smaller than some viruses. A thirtieth as wide as a hair.
The finer the particle the worse they are, because the more chance they have of getting into your lungs and bloodstream and causing blood clots and even heart attacks. PM2.5 particles are also present in the air even when there isn’t smoke, due to traffic pollution.
The World Health Organisation estimates that PM2.5 air pollution is responsible for 3% of deaths from heart disease and 5% of cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung, and 1% of deaths from acute respiratory infections in children under age 5 worldwide.
Inhalation of PM2.5 particles when pregnant is also associated with low birth weight and high blood pressure in children. It can cause inflammation and oxidative stress, disrupt hormones, and impact the ability of oxygen to access the placenta.
PM2.5 also contributes to high plaque deposits in arteries and can lead to heart attacks and other heart problems. An increase in estimated annual exposure to PM2.5 has been found to increase the risk of heart attack by 13%
The Journal of the American Medical Association also found that death rates climb inexorably when particle pollution rises
You can minimise your exposure to particulate matter by wearing a mask when you’re outside, and staying indoors when the levels are high, with the doors and windows closed, and filter the air with an air purifier with a medical-grade HEPA filter and activated carbon filter.
For more tips on preventing smoke inhalation in your home, click here to view our article.