MAC: Mines and Communities

What are Particulates?

Published by MAC on 2005-08-10

What are Particulates?

The Gallon Environment Letter

Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment

Vol. 10, No. 14, August 10, 2005

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Dust (particulate matter) is a significant component of air pollution. Particulates are not a single pollutant but a mix of particles of different sizes, origin, and chemical composition. Regulations have tended to address only size rather than the other aspects of the particle mix.

Coarser particulates may be found near sources of pollution such as power plants, industrial and agricultural operations, and roads. They include cement dust, foundry dust, wind-blown soil dust and coal dust. Finer particulates may be found long distances from sources. Chemical reactions between air pollutants and also between natural compounds such as water and seawater can lead to formation of different types of particles.

Among the features of particulates are:

Effects of Particles

The effects depend on the nature of the particles such as their size and toxicity as well as on how long the particles stay in the air and the results of chemical and physical interactions.

Among the effects are:

Controlling Particulate Matter

Many companies offer air pollution control equipment and services to remove particles from operations and waste streams but not all are effective for all particulate matter. Cost is often a barrier to the take-up of technology.

Among the control measures are:

Manahan, Stanley. Fundamentals of Environmental Chemistry. Boca Raton, Florida: Lewis Publishers, 2000.

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