Visual Capitalist's Relative Size of Particles

Managing The Microscopic Threat

by | Oct 2, 2021

The microscopic threat has been one of the world’s biggest threats in recent history. From the global pandemic to wildfires raging across North America the threat to human health is concerning.

But just how small are the particles that threaten the air we breathe? Visual Capitalist expertly illustrated this with an infographic that shows the sizes of particulate pollutants in comparison with other matter.

Visual Capitalist's Relative Size of Particles

As a benchmark, Visual Capitalist added a single strand of hair for measuring particulate matter. On the smaller side of the spectrum is where we find Coronavirus, which falls in the 0.1-0.5 pm range. While coronavirus poses a significant health threat, it is not the only source of pollution to be concerned about.

“One major source of air pollution is particulate matter, which can contain dust, dirt, soot, and smoke particles. Averaging around 2.5 microns, these particles can often enter human lungs. At just a fraction of the size between 0.4-0.7 microns, wildfire smoke poses even more of a health hazard. Research has also linked wildfire exposures to not just respiratory issues, but also cardiovascular and neurological issues.”
Visual Capitalist

Does it Matter?

Air pollution is a major source of concern as it is the number one environmental cause of premature death contributing to 50,000 premature deaths annually in the US and approximately 7 million worldwide. As stated by Well Certified in the article Why Air Matters:  

“Certain ambient air pollutants are particularly troublesome due to their impacts on multiple body systems including the respiratory, nervous and cardiovascular systems. One such pollutant is particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size (PM2.5). These small particles penetrate deep into the lungs where they can accumulate, trigger inflammation and lead to decreased lung function. Once in the lungs, PM2.5 can also enter the bloodstream where it can contribute to the development of other health issues including cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline.”
–WELL Certified

Although it may seem like ambient air pollution is only a problem for outside air, it impacts the quality of the air we breathe in buildings as well. Since ambient air pollutants can be introduced to indoor environments in a variety of ways including through doors, windows, HVAC systems and other aspects of the building envelope, ambient air quality can act as a predictor of indoor air quality. For instance, one estimate indicated that as much as 65% of exposures to wildfire-driven particulate matter will occur indoors.”

Managing the Threat

The threat of particulate pollution can be managed through enhanced ventilation and filtration.  For example, installing air purifiers that contain activated carbon and HEPA filters will capture and remove particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs. Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) is another option that is extremely effective at removing bacteria and viruses that threaten our health. Installing higher rated MERV filters in HVAC systems and opening windows and using fans where possible are also recommended.

We Want to Help

White Coat is an Indoor Air Quality Service provider and can help solve your indoor air quality needs. We offer Air Disinfectors with 6 stages of filtration and UVGI-PCO, both of which are highly effective at removing particulate pollution.

As a Cornerstone member of the International Well Building Institute, we are actively supporting the movement towards advancing human health in buildings and communities around the world. For more information on how to solve for healthier buildings and indoor air, please give us a call at 321.795.9800.

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