Particulate Matter (PM-10)
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
Please see www.epa.gov/airtrends for the latest information on Air Quality Trends.
Nature and Sources of the Pollutant: Particulate matter is the term for solid or liquid particles found in the air. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke. Others are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope. Because particles originate from a variety of mobile and stationary sources (diesel trucks, woodstoves, power plants, etc.), their chemical and physical compositions vary widely. Particulate matter can be directly emitted or can be formed in the atmosphere when gaseous pollutants such as SO2 and NOx react to form fine particles.
Health and Environmental Effects: In 1987, EPA replaced the earlier Total Suspended Particulate (TSP) air quality standard with a PM-10 standard. The new standard focuses on smaller particles that are likely responsible for adverse health effects because of their ability to reach the lower regions of the respiratory tract. The PM-10 standard includes particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less (0.0004 inches or one-seventh the width of a human hair). EPA's health-based national air quality standard for PM-10 is 50 µg/m3 (measured as an annual mean) and 150 µg/m3 (measured as a daily concentration). Major concerns for human health from exposure to PM-10 include: effects on breathing and respiratory systems, damage to lung tissue, cancer, and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma, are especially sensitive to the effects of particulate matter. Acidic PM-10 can also damage human-made materials and is a major cause of reduced visibility in many parts of the U.S. New scientific studies suggest that fine particles (smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) may cause serious adverse health effects. As a result, EPA is considering setting a new standard for PM-2.5. In addition, EPA is reviewing whether revisions to the current PM-10 standards are warranted.
Trends in PM-10 Levels: Air monitoring networks were changed in 1987 to measure PM-10 (replacing the earlier TSP monitors). Between 1988 and 1995, average PM-10 concentrations decreased 22 percent. Short-term trends between 1994 and 1995 showed a decrease of 4 percent in monitored PM-10 concentration levels.
Emissions of PM-10 shown in the chart are based on estimates from fuel combustion sources, industrial processes, and transportation sources, which account for only 6 percent of the total PM-10 emissions nationwide. Between 1988 and 1995, PM-10 emissions for these sources decreased 17 percent. Short-term emissions trends between 1994 and 1995 showed a 6 percent decrease.
The emissions estimates presented below do not include emissions from natural and miscellaneous sources which are fugitive dust (unpaved and paved roads), agricultural and forestry activities, wind erosion, wildfires and managed burning. These emissions estimates also do not account for particulate matter that is secondarily formed in the atmosphere from gaseous pollutants (e.g., SO2 and NOx).