Suspended Particles in Your Environment

Every material that we see and touch can be broken down to small particles. Some materials are more fragile and dissolve into particles easily, others are more robust and demand different equipment and chemical processes for that to occur. In any case, the number of particles found in the indoor air can affect directly your personal health and of your family members. Determining what kind of particles are found in your environment can help prevent accidents, diseases, and even cancer. To better understand how suspended particle matter is harmful and how to keep particle levels low indoors low read into the brief presentation that follows.

What is suspended particulates?

Suspended particles are a mixture of solid and liquid particles that are so small and have such a low density that they can be found suspended in air, basically floating around. Suspended particles are mostly composed of organic and inorganic matter (varied chemicals) and biological matter (polled, mold, spores, etc) varying in composition and size. In this sense, suspended particles can be classified as:

  • Large particles: dust, smoke, dirt (visible with the naked eye)
  • Coarse particles: ranging between 2.5 to 10 µm in diameter
  • Fine particles: smaller than 2.5µm in diameter
  • Nanoparticles: smaller than 0.1 µm

Moreover, suspended particulate matter can be classified by their source as well. In this case, suspended particles can be classified as directly produced suspended particles, in cases where the material itself is within size and density to be classified as a suspended particle; and indirect suspended particles, when it’s a result of a secondary process decomposing a more robust material.

The causes for the formation of suspended particulate matter can also be used to classify it. In this case, suspended particulate matter can be classified as from natural causes or from man-made causes. Naturally produced suspended particulate matter is mostly due to natural occurrences in the environment, such as vegetation spores, sea spray, forest and grass fires and so on. The natural produced suspendered particle is also present in more drastic environmental events, such as volcanoes, tornados and hurricanes and dust storms.

For man-made suspended particulate matters, the practice of combustion represents one of the main routes of producing suspended particulate matter both indoors and outdoors. The use of stoves, oil combustion, coal combustion, power plants, and even tobacco smoking are known to be major causes of the formation of suspended particles. On the other hand, industrial and agricultural practices also cause the formation of suspended particles and alongside with deforestation, demolition, construction, and other human daily activities, are responsible for an increase in particulate matter noted in urban areas.

How can I control the level of suspended particulate indoor?

As they are small and migrate through air currents, suspended particulate indoor control can be quite challenging. Depending on the outdoor conditions, the indoor air can be severely compromised by the presence of suspended particles and proper assessment of air ducts, ventilation systems, and other sink points distributed inside your environment might be necessary. Moreover, other practices carried out indoors might also be responsible for the increase in the concentration of suspended particulate matter indoor and need to be taken into account when addressing the issue.

In general, suspended particulate indoor can be controlled by:

  • Installing proper ventilation in fuel-fired combustion appliances
  • Evenly distribute and install air filters throughout the indoor environment
  • Practice “no shoes” policy in the indoor environment
  • Avoid dusting clothes indoor
  • Vacuum regularly carpets and other surfaces that can accumulate dust

What are the health effects of suspended particles indoor?

The health effects caused by exposure to suspended particles indoor vary as widely as their classifications. Mostly, suspended particles will provoke irritation of the eye, nose, throat, aggravation of the coronary and respiratory disease and other typical symptoms of exposure to dust and mold. However, because suspended particulate vary so much, it is crucial to determine the size and type of particulate present in your indoor environment to properly understand the health effects that can be caused.

For example, suspended particulate matter that is smaller than 10 µm can actually enter your organism and deposit inside your lungs, causing a decrease in lung function, aggravation of asthma and chronic bronchitis. In some cases, this scenario might lead to premature death. Moreover, due to the variable composition of suspended particulate matter, exposure to a high concentration of it can cause myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, stroke, and sudden cardiac death. In fact, acute exposure has been positively linked to increased blood pressure, acute coronary syndrome, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease mortality, among others.

How can I monitor the level of suspended particles indoor?

In cases where the level of suspended particles indoor is high or suspected to be high, carrying out a proper measuring and monitoring process is recommended. The United States Environmental Protection Agency provides a list of guidelines for measuring PM10 (level of particulate matter lower than 10 µm present) and PM2.5 (level of particulate matter lower than 2.5 µm present). Other environmental agencies worldwide provide slight variations of these techniques seeking to improve the assessment of indoor air quality.

Overall, the monitoring techniques consist of sampling, normally carried out through dust trappers and dust collectors, with further estimation and measuring through microscopes and other specialized devices. The basic information obtained through most of the suspended particulate assessments is the level of particulate in the environment, their size, and distribution in the environment. In this case, the proper allocation of sampling spots is required to enable the proper evaluation of indoor air quality. Data collection near stoves, combustion areas and in ventilation areas are fundamental to understand the settling behavior in the environment.

However, some diseases and health problems are caused by the composition of the particle that is present in the suspended particle and further analysis of the material can be required. In this case, reaching out to a professional team capable of detecting size distribution and composition of suspended particle matter is of fundamental importance to ensure the safety of your indoor environment.

How can IAQ help?

IAQ relies on a professionalized team that is capable of assessing the indoor air quality of your household providing solutions for the problems encountered. In the case of particulate matter, prolonged exposure can lead to the onset of chronic diseases that can take several years before detection. The slight discomfort provoked by the presence of particulate matter can be easily overlooked neglecting the risks of chronic exposure. To avoid the imminent risk of this exposure, a general assessment of the area can be provided by IAQ carrying out a preliminary evaluation of suspended particulate matter and its distribution throughout the environment.

IAQ can also help identify the problematic areas and provide viable solutions for your environment emphasizing the importance of the safety of your family. Finally, through speciation analysis, IAQ is the only company in the Singapore area capable of identifying strains and species of molds that might be present in your indoor air through dust sampling and microbiologic analysis. Additionally, the highly skilled lab team is also capable of determining the chemical composition of the particulates found in your environment, pinpointing the problems that might be found inside your environment or in your neighborhood, helping you maintain the safe indoor air quality in your environment.

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