It wasn’t that long ago that most of us had never heard of fine particulate matter, or FPM. It’s a term that first appeared in news reports surrounding the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal.
Ambient air pollution is the largest environmental health problem in the United States and in the world more generally. Fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 millionths of a meter, known as PM2.5, was the fifth-leading cause of death in the world in 2015, factoring in approximately 4.1 million global deaths annually. In the United States, PM2.5 contributed to about 88,000 deaths in 2015 – more than diabetes, influenza, kidney disease or suicide.
Scientists have linked air pollution with many health conditions including asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and premature death. Among air pollutants, fine particulate matter is especially harmful because the tiny particles (diameter of 2.5 μm or less) can penetrate deep within the lungs. Now, researchers have integrated data from multiple sources to determine the personal exposure of people in peri-urban India to fine particulate matter. They report their results in Environmental Science & Technology.