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Where does particulate pollution come from and what can I do about it? (Besides wearing a mask all the time)

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I am not sure how many people actually barbecued over charcoal in their homes when they had a party, but almost everyone smoked, and the idea of second-hand smoke being harmful hadn't even been invented.

PM2.5 effects on health really couldn't be separated from all kinds of other environmental hazards, and even today a list of effects will vary from source to source. The Province of Ontario's list:

Exposure to fine particulate matter has been associated with hospital admissions and several serious health effects, including premature death. People with asthma, cardiovascular or lung disease, as well as children and elderly people, are considered to be the most sensitive to the effects of fine particulate matter.

New York State:

Particles in the PM2.5 size range are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Scientific studies have linked increases in daily PM2.5 exposure with increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, emergency department visits and deaths. Studies also suggest that long term exposure to fine particulate matter may be associated with increased rates of chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. People with breathing and heart problems, children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM2.5.

DEFRA in the UK:

The biggest impact of particulate air pollution on public health is understood to be from long-term exposure to PM2.5, which increases the age-specific mortality risk, particularly from cardiovascular causes. Several plausible mechanisms for this effect on mortality have been proposed, although it is not yet clear which is the most important. Exposure to high concentrations of PM (e.g. during short-term pollution episodes) can also exacerbate lung and heart conditions, significantly affecting quality of life, and increase deaths and hospital admissions.

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