Fine Dust - Health Hazards

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Fine Dust - Health Hazards
Fine Dust - Health Hazards

Video: Fine Dust - Health Hazards

Video: Fine Dust - Health Hazards
Video: Dust and pollutants at work - Go Home Healthy 2023, September

Fine dust: air pollutant number 1

Fine dust (PM) is one of the most dangerous air pollutants for health, as the dust particles unfold a wide range of harmful effects in the respiratory tract and - by means of inflammatory processes - throughout the body. Fine dust consists of tiny particles of different sizes and chemical compositions. Particles with a diameter of 10 µm and smaller (10 µm = 0.01 mm) are referred to as fine dust. In comparison, a head hair is approx. 100 µm thick. Fine grains of sand have a diameter of 90 µm.


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  • How fine dust is created
  • Health hazards
  • How can I protect myself?
  • Fine dust pollution and limit values in Austria

Traffic, house fires, industry and agriculture are considered to be the main causes of fine dust pollution. In traffic, a large part of the pollution is caused by carcinogenic diesel soot from diesel vehicles as well as by the blowing up of road dust.

How fine dust is created

Fine dust is generated in different ways:

  • Fine dust is formed in the atmosphere from directly emitted pollutant particles and from secondary particles that arise from chemical reactions of so-called “precursor gases”. These include, for example, sulfur dioxide (SO 2), nitrogen oxides (NO x), ammonia (NH 3) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).
  • Fine dust is created near the ground through mechanical processes, e.g. grit or abrasion in traffic.
  • Fine dust is also released when burning solid fuels in particular.
  • Fine dust is created naturally, for example through wind erosion (desert dust), forest fires or volcanic eruptions.

Health hazards

Depending on the size of the fine dust particles, the upper or lower airways are affected. Very small particles can get through the airways to the lungs and even reach the alveoli. So far, no concentration limit has been established below which fine dust pollution would not have any health effects. Particularly at risk groups of people are babies and toddlers, the elderly over 65 years of age and people with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

Fine dust can, among other things, trigger inflammation in the blood vessels and contribute to an increase in the tendency of the blood to clot. This increases the risk of thrombosis. Temporary particulate matter pollution can lead to coughs, bronchitis, asthma attacks or impaired lung function or cause cardiovascular diseases. Long-term exposure is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and, in children, an increased risk of impaired lung growth and brain function. Studies show that heavy exposure to traffic fumes is associated with a higher risk of heart attacks.

How can I protect myself?

In principle, damage to health can be avoided by inhaling as little fine dust-laden air as possible.

  • If there is high exposure to fine dust, strenuous activities outdoors should be avoided.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists should avoid busy roads.
  • Living spaces should be ventilated at times of low traffic.
  • Wipe the apartment with a damp cloth more often and avoid smoking as a source of fine dust.

Fine dust pollution and limit values in Austria

The life expectancy of Austrians was reduced by an average of nine months before 2000 due to fine dust. Since then the pollution has decreased slightly across Austria. In addition to emissions in Austria, the transport of pollutants from neighboring countries is also responsible. The limit values set by the EU are still being exceeded at heavily loaded measuring stations in Austria. Therefore, appropriate redevelopment areas were defined where additional mitigation measures (stricter requirements for industry, replacement programs for old heating systems, driving restrictions for old trucks and speed restrictions) have to be implemented.

EU limit values:

  • 50 µg / m 3 (daily average, should not be exceeded on more than 35 days per year)
  • 25 µg / m 3 (mean value per calendar year)

Further information and current particulate matter pollution in Austria: · Federal Environment Agency