Particulate Matter




What is particulate matter (PM)?

Particulate matter (PM) is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. 



Types of particulate matter

Particle matter is made up of several components, including acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles.

PM 10 pollution

PM 10 are very small particles found in dust and smoke. They have a diameter of 10 micrometers (0.01 mm) or smaller.

PM 2.5 pollution

PM 2.5 is very small particles in air that are 2.5 micrometers (about 1 ten- thousandth of an inch) or less in diameter. This is less than the thickness of a human hair.

PM 10 PM 2.5 Size

Sources of particulate matter (PM)

Sources of particulate matter include smoke from wildfires, dust storms, and other natural sources of particulate matter. Natural PM may include components of biological sources, from the burning of gas in internal combustion engines, or emissions from industrial processes.

What are the sources of PM 2.5?

Sources of PM 2.5 include emissions from gas, oil, diesel fuel, and wood. Common PM 2.5 indoor sources include wood fires, cooking fumes, and even candles.

What are the sources of PM 10?

Some of the sources of PM 10 include dust from construction sites, landfills, wildfires, industrial sources, and the burning of diesel fuel.


Sources pf Particulate Matter
Effects of PM

What are the effects of PM?

The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some of these particles may even get into your bloodstream.


Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including:

  • premature death in people with heart or lung disease
  • nonfatal heart attacks
  • irregular heartbeat
  • aggravated asthma
  • decreased lung function
  • increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing


People with heart or lung diseases, children, and older adults are the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure.

Effects of PM
PM Harm

What particle size is most harmful?

Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter can get deep into your lungs and some may even get into your bloodstream. Of these, particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter—also known as fine particles or PM 2.5—pose the greatest risk to health. 

PM Lungs

What does PM 2.5 do to your lungs?

PM 2.5—or particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter—can penetrate deeply into the lung, irritate and corrode the alveolar wall, and consequently impair lung function. Symptoms of exposure include eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation along with coughing and sneezing.

PM Air

How long does PM stay in the air?

PM 10 particles can stay in the air for minutes or hours while PM 2.5 particles can stay in the air for days or weeks. PM 10 particles can travel as little as one hundred yards or as much as 30 miles. PM 2.5 particles go even farther: many hundreds of miles. 


What is being done to reduce PM pollution?

EPA PM Pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates inhalable particles. However, particles of sand and large dust—which are larger than 10 micrometers—are not regulated by EPA. 

The EPA’s national and regional rules to reduce emissions of pollutants that form PM will help state and local governments meet the agency’s national air quality standards. 

What are particulate matter air quality standards?

In 2012, based on EPA’s review of the air quality criteria and the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter, the EPA revised the annual PM 2.5 standards and made related revisions in:

  • Data handling conventions
  • The Air Quality Index (AQI)
  • The ambient air monitoring, reporting, and network design requirements
  • Regulations for the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) program

The EPA retained the existing primary (health-based) and secondary (welfare-based) 24-hour standards for PM 2.5 and PM 10, without revision.

How are PM standards developed and reviewed?

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set national air quality standards for particulate matter, as one of the six criteria pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The law also requires the EPA to periodically review the standards to ensure that they provide adequate health and environmental protection, and to update those standards as necessary.

How to reduce exposure to PM pollution

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a nationally uniform color-coded index for reporting and forecasting daily air quality. It is used to report on the most common ambient air pollutants that are regulated under the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (PM 10 and PM 2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The AQI tells the public how clean or polluted the air is and how to avoid health effects associated with poor air quality.


The AQI focuses on health effects that may be experienced within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air and uses a normalized scale from 0 to 500; the higher the AQI value, the greater the level of pollution and the greater the health concern. An AQI value of 100 generally corresponds to the level of the short-term National Ambient Air Quality Standard for the pollutant. AQI values at and below 100 are generally considered to be satisfactory. When AQI values are above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy, at first for members of populations at greatest risk of a health effect, then for the entire population as AQI values get higher (greater than 150).

Reducing personal exposure to air pollution using a highly efficient face mask appeared to reduce symptoms and improve a range of cardiovascular health measures in patients with coronary heart disease. Such interventions to reduce personal exposure to PM air pollution have the potential to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events in this highly susceptible population.

Particulate Monitoring

With the range of harmful effects PM can have, it has become clear that PM monitoring is especially important.Particulate monitoring uses particle counters to measure dust concentrations in the air. These measurements can be used to evaluate relative air quality.

How is PM measured?

There are several monitoring methods are available to monitor characteristic of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) in the atmosphere. The most important types of particulate matter are:

Concentration methods:

In this method, concentration of PM is measured from ambient air. PM concentration can be in mass (m), number (N), and surface area (S). These instruments are based on different measurement principles, and it can be gravimetric, optical, microbalance, and electrical charge.

Size distribution methods:

This method can analyze behavior of PM in ambient air. Smaller particles stay in the atmosphere for a longer time than those of larger size. Size distribution methods measures aerosol size in diameter and concentration. By this method, particle size is measured based on properties like geometric size, inertia, mobility, electrical mobility, and optical properties.

Measurement PM

What is a PM monitor?

Optical PM monitoring of PM is an attempt to measure the diameter of particles in flight. Optical monitors are a low-cost way to get real-time data about particles in the air. They are an automated, electronic version of the effect seen in a darkened room by light glinting off dust in a sunbeam.

A sensor and a beam of light sit at an angle to each other. As a particle passes in front of the light, some light is reflected towards the sensor. The sensor registers a pulse for as long as the particle reflects light to the sensor. If the air is moving at a consistent speed, the length of this pulse can be used to estimate the particle’s diameter.


 TSI DustTrak DRX Desktop 8533
 TSI DustTrak DRX 8534 w/ handheld
AM 520

Particulate Monitoring Instruments

PM instruments available from RAECO Rents include the TSI DustTrak DRX Desktop 8533 and Handheld 8534 models. Milligrams per meter cubed measurements for PM 10, PM 2.5, PM 1.0, or respirable size fractions.RAECO Rents also offers the AM 520 for a personal wearable PM monitor. The AM 520 is available in an intrinsically safe model as well.

For outdoor monitoring, RAECO Rents has weatherproof enclosures operated via standard power, battery power, or solar power for extended runtimes.

Get Started with RAECO’s Particulate Monitoring Equipment Today

RAECO Rents will support your PM monitoring tasks with equipment that includes a NIST calibration certificate. Support from our factory trained staff includes instructions on how to operate the equipment and assistance with obtaining your data.  RAECO Rents staff can download your data and send it to you, or we even have rental laptops for use when loading software is not an option. Reach out to us today to learn more!