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Particulate Matter

Particulate matter is a serious problem for the regionParticulate matter pollution is a serious and growing concern. Recent studies show that such pollution is harmful, even at current health standards set by the federal government. New standards address this by working to reduce the levels of the most harmful types of particles.

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter is made of the particles and droplets found in the air. By themselves, these particles and droplets are invisible to the naked eye. But all together, they can appear as clouds or a fog-like haze.

"Fine particles" (1/28 the diameter of a human hair - see picture below) come from many different sources, including industrial and residential combustion and vehicle exhaust. Thousands of these tiny particles would fit on the period at the end of this sentence. Larger particulate matter (coarse particles) also have many sources. These include things like dust from construction, landfills, and stone crushing; wind-blown dust; and road dust.

Image showing particulate matter size compared to a human hair
 Click photo to enlarge.  Source:

What are examples of particulate matter?

Dust, ash, mist, smoke, soot or fumes.

How does particulate matter affect me?

Both coarse and fine particles are a health concern. Because of their small size, they can get into sensitive areas of the lungs and heart.

Fine particles are the biggest concern because they are linked to the most serious effects. They can cause a persistent cough, wheezing, and physical pain, as well as worsen conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Long-term exposure may increase the rate of respiratory (lung) and cardiovascular (heart) illness and reduce life span.

Is this a new problem?

Particulate matter has been a problem for years. However, recent studies show that major health problems can result from exposure even below current standards. So, the federal government made these standards stricter in order to protect human health and the environment.

What can you do?

  • Reduce travel on days with poor air quality.
  • Avoid using your wood stove and fireplace on days that have poor air quality.
  • Avoid using leaf blowers and other dust-producing equipment.
  • Drive slowly on unpaved roads and other dirt surfaces.

What is the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board doing?The BRTB checks each transportation plan and program in the region to make sure that the fine particulate matter problem in the Baltimore region does not get worse as a result of transportation projects. This also helps us to make sure that these plans do not prevent us from meeting the federal fine particulate matter standard. This is done through what is called the Conformity process.

For more information:
Sara Tomlinson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 410-732-0500 x1035.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 18:53