Particulate matter refers to small particles like dust and soot that are too small to be seen, but cause serious health problems. PM10 refers to particles that are smaller than 10 microns and PM2.5 refers to particles that are smaller than 2.5 microns.
A micron, or micrometre, is one-millionth of a metre, meaning these particles are not visible with the naked eye. PM2.5 is considered the most serious pollutant in British Columbia because they are inhaled deep into your lungs and even past the gas exchange region and enter your blood stream. This can lead to serious impacts on other organs like the heart.
Sources: Residential wood burning, open burning, vehicle emissions and road dust are important sources of particulate matter.
Find out how you can help reduce particulate matter
Nitrogen Oxides, also known as NOx, refers to nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These pollutants are linked to serious health problems, especially for those with heart and lung conditions. Even short exposure to nitrogen dioxide can cause lung inflammation in healthy people. These pollutants combine with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to produce ground level ozone
Sources: Vehicle emissions, other fossil fuel combustion, chemical fertilizers.
Ground level ozone
Ozone higher up in the atmosphere (in the stratosphere) is an important, naturally occurring phenomenon, but ground level ozone is produced mostly through human activities and has serious effects on human health. Ground level ozone can cause very serious health problems to those with existing conditions like asthma, and in healthy individuals it can irritate airways and lead to reduced lung function. Ground level ozone also harms plants and animals, negatively impacting the ecosystem.
Sources: Ground level ozone is produced by reactions between other pollutants. Vehicle emissions are primarily responsible, as well as chemical fertilizers, industrial emissions and other sources.
Find out how you can help reduce ground level ozone
For more information on Air Pollutants and your health, visit the BC Government Air Quality page.
Regional Air Quality Coordinator