Particulate matter (PM) is a complex
mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. Particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles.
The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. EPA is concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects. High levels of particulate matter can cause visible air pollution, not only affecting our health, but our natural scenery as well.
PM10 is particulate matter between 10 and 2.5 micrometers (from about 25 to 100 times thinner than a human hair). PM10 is considered “inhalable coarse particles," and can be found near roadways and dusty industries.
PM10 is less of an immediate health concern than PM2.5 given that it does not penetrate the very lowest part of the lungs. However, it is still small enough to enter the lungs and cause irritation of your eyes, nose, and throat. Historically, high levels of PM10 have increased hospital admissions, illness rates and death rates.
PM10 is smoke, dirt, dust emitted from unpaved and paved roads, uncontrolled construction sites, restaurant grills and fireplaces as well as from windblown mold, spores and pollen.
Aspen’s particulate air quality monitor is collocated with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s PM-10 monitors on the roof of the Yellow Brick building, located at 215 N Garmisch. This location provides a good indication of the overall particulate levels for Aspen.
The City of Aspen has been monitoring PM10 for over twenty-five years. PM10 air quality monitoring played an integral role in verifying that the air quality measures the community adopted in the mid 1980’s were working to reduce historical high levels of PM10. By monitoring PM10 we can determine our compliance with the EPA’s 24-hour standard of 150 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter). Aspen is currently in compliance with this standard and has been for over a decade.