Air Quality Awareness - Ozone Clean Air Tips

Friday, June 01, 2012 - It's Not Just Ozone. Particle Pollution Matters, Too

You probably heard that ground-level ozone is bad for you. But did you know that there's another common pollutant that can harm your lungs and your heart?

If you've ever breathed in smoke from a wood fire or stood behind a dirty truck when it started up, you've been exposed to another type of pollution: particle pollution. Particle pollution comes from fires, wood stoves and tailpipes. But it also forms in the atmosphere from pollution from power plants, industries, cars, trucks and construction equipment, meaning people across the country can be exposed.

You can't always see this pollution. One fine particle is 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less - much smaller around than a human hair. Because they're so small, these particles can get deep into your lungs and cause serious problems, ranging from aggravated asthma, to heart attacks to early death in people with heart or lung disease.

There's no single season for particle pollution. Depending on where you live, particles can be a problem at any time of year! In some areas, particle pollution comes mainly from sources like woodstoves; in others, emissions from power plants, industries and motor vehicles react to form particle pollution in the atmosphere.

You can use the Air Quality Index, and the AirNow.gov website to learn more about particle pollution in your area - and how to stay healthy.