Small Particles in the Air Can Cause Big Health Problems

Small Particles in the Air Can Cause Big Health Problems

We spend much of our time indoors, and want that indoor air to be as clean as possible. But that air is often filled with small particles a fraction of the diameter of a human hair. Because they are so small, they can lodge deep in our lungs, potentially causing long term illnesses.

In other words, particulate matter doesn’t have to be big to cause big health problems. These particles are categorized as PM10 (10 micrometers or smaller) and PM2.5 (2.5 micrometers or smaller).

Here are a few sources of particulate matter floating around indoors:

  • smoking
  • cooking
  • open flames from appliances, burning candles, and other sources
  • pollen and mold
  • using kerosene heaters
  • diffusing essential oils
  • cleaning using common chemical products
  • opening doors and windows to outdoor polluted environments
  • using hairsprays, aerosol room fresheners or deodorants

Air that has a high particulate count can trigger asthma attacks, as well as lead to irritated eyes, nose and throat, shortness of breath, coughing, heart disease, and other health-related issues. Prolonged exposure can be especially dangerous to young children, seniors, and individuals with compromised immune systems or respiratory problems

Because of potential health problems caused by particulate matter, many governments are regulating what’s allowed in our air. The problem has been that these particles were previously only detectible with electron microscopes. Since most households and businesses don’t have electron microscopes available, new particle sensors are increasingly filling that role.

Laser-based sensors detect and count particles with light scattering. A laser light source illuminates a particle as it is pulled through a detection chamber. As particles pass through the laser beam, the light reflects off the particles and is recorded on a photo or light detector. The light is then analyzed and converted to an electrical signal for use by another system.

The electrical signal can be fed into heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) control systems in buildings and homes, or into other air monitoring devices to automatically clean the air. Or, the signal can alert family members or building operators that air purification systems should be activated, if outdoor air could be used to improve indoor air quality, when an air filter needs to be changed, or when early maintenance should be performed on indoor air delivery systems.

Because the sensors can easily fit in the palm of your hand, they can be integrated in many home appliances as well as larger air purification systems.

We no longer have to be at the mercy of what’s in the air. Now we can proactively detect and clean the air with minimal power and space requirements before the air causes problems.