Fine particles and human health

Particle pollution—especially fine particles—can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. Exposure to high levels of fine particles can impact heart and lung health, resulting in increased hospital and emergency room visits, lost work and school days, and in rare cases, premature death. Scientific studies have linked particle pollution to:

  • Heart attacks
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Aggravated asthma
  • Decreased lung function
  • Increased respiratory problems, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established standards for daily and annual fine particle concentrations to protect the public from adverse health effects associated with exposure to fine particle pollution.

People with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults are the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure. However, even if you are healthy, you may experience temporary symptoms from exposure to elevated levels of particle pollution. For more information about asthma, visit

Scale of particles: size matters

Relative sizes of fine particles: Grain of table sale, PM10, PM2.5