Particulate Matter (PM)

Definition - What does Particulate Matter (PM) mean?

Particulate matter (PM) is the term used in air pollution to describe the mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles present in the air. The size of pollutants varies and may contain different kinds of chemicals and materials. Inhaled particles can cause negative effects on health.

Corrosionpedia explains Particulate Matter (PM)

Particulate matter comes from several sources, including:

  • Processing and purifying metals
  • Wind erosion
  • Forest fires
  • Car emissions
  • Smokestacks
  • Construction

Some common examples of particulate matter include smoke, soil, dirt, soot and dust. Other coarse particles, known as PM10 include pollen, spores and mold. While finer and more dangerous ones, known as the PM2.5 particles, include heavy metals and lethal organic compounds. The smaller PM2.5 particles are lighter, travel farther and remain longer. Large particles can linger for only minutes, while PM2.5 can stay for hours.

Furthermore, fine particles have the capacity to cause negative health effects on humans. Due to their small size, they can go deeper into the lungs, causing inflammation. Other organs may also be affected, such as the heart and blood vessels.

PM can also cause negative environmental effects, like increased stream and lake acidity, haze, nutrient degradation in soils and coastal waters as well as damage to crops, forests, stone and other types of materials.

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