Particulate matter, a.k.a. PM, refers to superfine solids and liquids suspended in air. PM can be naturally occurring (bushfire smoke, fungal spores) or from human activities (tailpipe emissions, mineral and mining dusts, combustion, and processing).
Generally, PM is separated into two categories: PM10 (<10 micrometres in diameter) and PM2.5 (<2.5 micrometres). Both categories can enter the body through the respiratory system, with finer PM2.5 able to enter the bloodstream. This can lead to adverse health effects including fibrosis, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, and increased cancer risk. Particulates can also accumulate in the environment, which can lead to a range of ecological issues including the acidification of waterways, nutrient depletion in soils and haze. These impacts are highly conditional on the type of pollutant and length of exposure.
Luckily, Australian air quality still ranks among the cleanest in the world. Levels of PM10 have remained relatively consistent across most major Australian cities since 2016 and levels of PM2.5 have only seen minor increases in some areas, earning the rating “good” in the latest Australian State of the Environment report (2021). The challenge is now maintaining this track record through reporting and mitigation efforts to ensure positive outcomes for our health and the environment.
For industrial and mining entities, dust suppression, enclosures, and quick rehabilitation are among best practice methods to minimise PM pollution, where the combination of exposed minerals and diesel-powered heavy vehicles can contribute to higher levels of PM. Limiting vehicle speeds, good vehicle maintenance and switching to low-emission or zero-emission technologies can also assist in reducing PM pollution.
Greenbase offers support with NPI reporting and associated services. To start a conversation about your reporting needs contact us below or visit our services page for more information.
- Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, Particulate Matter Factsheets
- NSW Health, Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)
- Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, Reducing Pollution
- Emmerson KM & Keywood MD (2021). Australia state of the environment 2021: air quality, independent report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.