All you want to know about PM2.5

Negative Effects of Exposure to PM 2.5 (PRNewsFoto/3M India Limited)

It has been more than a week since Delhi and the NCR has been battling with poor air quality conditions with thick smog blanketing the skies and PM of 2.5 levels and above. In fact, according to New Delhi US Embassy Air Pollution Index, the figures show that these are hazardous in nature.

What is PM2.5 and what is causing the smog?

The ‘2.5’ in PM 2.5 refers to the size of the pollutant in micrometers. Particulate pollutants vary in size and the smaller they are, the more damage they cause to one’s health.

Apart from the burning of fire crackers, other reasons responsible for the air pollution and Particulate 2.5 are exhaust gases from vehicles, industrial sectors, power plants, cooking and heating with solid fuels (e.g. coal, wood, crop waste), forest fires and open burning of municipal waste and agricultural residues.

At this time, it is important that general public understands what pollution is doing to their body and how they can protect themselves and their families from the hazardous effects of it. Mentioned below are a few facts which will come in handy while selecting the right protection device from the air pollution.

PM2.5 (which is one-hundredth the thickness of a human hair) can penetrate deep into the lungs and blood stream and is dangerous at any concentration.

Risks of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic and acute respiratory diseases (including asthma) and other health problems has increased for people who live in these cities, with an estimate of nearly 3.5 million people dying due to these diseases every year. On an average PM2.5 reduces the life expectancy of humans by almost 3.5 years.

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How can one protect themselves against PM 2.5: Things to know

Any airborne particulate contamination such as an outbreak of PM2.5 / PM 10/ Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Avian Flu, Ebola Virus etc., only respirators and not masks, should be used to safeguard oneself from getting any kind of respiratory diseases.

The biggest difference between a respirator and a surgical mask is the intended use. While respirators are designed to help reduce the wearer’s respiratory exposure to airborne contaminants, surgical masks on the other hand do not have either adequate filtering or fitting attributes to provide respiratory protection for the wearer.

They are designed to help prevent contamination of the work environment or sterile field from large particles generated by the wearer (e.g. spit, mucous).

Choosing the right Respirator

A respirator rated N95(NIOSH Approved) filters out more than 95% of particles (PM) larger than 0.3 microns – that’s much smaller even than PM2.5 microns. This is a good thing, since most of air pollution’s bad health effects are caused by particles 2.5 microns and smaller (the width of a human hair is 70 microns). Hence, N95 filters are the right choice to combat the air- pollution issue at hand.

Alternatively, disposable respirators which are ‘CE’ mark and approved to EN 149:2001 in the EU with a rating of FFP3 (high efficiency 99.97%) (FFP = Filtering Face Piece) is equivalent to the US N95 NIOSH standard can also be used to provide the user with adequate protection.

Press Information Note Issued in Public Interest From 3M India

Anand Narayanaswamy is the editor-in-chief of Netans. He was recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 9 years (2002 to 2011) and again as a Microsoft MVP in Surface under Windows and Devices in January 2024. He worked as a Chief Technical Editor with ASPAlliance and was part of ASPInsider program. Anand has published several articles and reviews related to various software and hardware products for various software and technology related websites. He is also active on social media and also participates as an Influencer for various brands. Anand can be reached at

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