Fine particles

Outside air contains various particles of different sizes, shapes, and compositions. Some of them originate from nature, while others are generated by humans.

Airborne particles are one of the most significant factors to diminish air quality in urban areas. It has not been possible to determine a safe limit for airborne particles.

Groups that are sensitive to the harmful effects of airborne particles are small children, people with asthma, and elderly people with respiratory and heart diseases. The biggest health hazards are likely to come from long-term exposure to fine particulate matter emissions from traffic and residential wood burning.

Fine particles are less than 2.5 μm in diameter, whereas ultra fine particles are less than 0.1 μm in diameter. When we inhale, fine particles are transported into different parts of the respiratory system: the upper respiratory tract, bronchi, and alveoli. Some of the ultra fine particles can enter the bloodstream, increasing the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases.

The harmfulness of fine particles is affected by their concentration in air and their physical and chemical properties. The particles that are considered the most harmful to health are particles generated by incomplete combustion, which contain soot and organic carbon compounds.

Short-term exposure to fine particles may increase respiratory infections and aggravate the symptoms of asthma, COPD, and coronary heart disease. Long-term exposure to fine particles has even been found to lead to a shorter life expectancy. Fine particles are the most harmful to elderly people, children, and people with respiratory or cardiovascular diseases.

Where do fine particles come from?

Fine particles come from both indoors and outdoors. Fine particles are generated by human activity and nature.

Anthropogenic sources of fine particles include residential wood burning, traffic, and construction. Natural sources of fine particles include wildfires, volcanic eruptions, microbes, plants, and trees. The fine particles present in Finland largely originate from outside our borders.

Fine particles also come from emission sources in the built environment, such as house dust, various building and interior materials, and microbes. Fine particles are also generated by things that people do in their apartments: smoking, cooking, burning candles, cleaning, and using copiers and printers.

Fine particles are transported indoors through windows, poorly sealed and leaking structures, and outside air intakes. Fine particles can be removed from indoor air by cleaning and through exhaust air.

Pay attention to ventilation

  • Make sure that the ventilation is working properly.
  • Install filters in intake vents.
  • Change the filters regularly.
  • Make sure that the ventilation system and ducts are clean.

Minimise fine particle emissions indoors

  • Don’t smoke indoors.
  • Burn candles in moderation.
  • Turn on the cooker hood in your kitchen.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter. Use dust-binding cleaning methods, such as damp wiping.