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Is Particulate Matter Harming Your Health?

Is Particulate Matter Harming Your Health?

Pollution has long been connected to breathing difficulties, and considering the average adult breathes 3,000 gallons of air per day, that can be a huge problem. City dwellers often flee urban settings in favor of the “fresh air” of the country – and sometimes, with good reason. Those who suffer from respiratory complications can have an especially hard time with air quality in highly polluted areas.


It can be particularly harmful – not just to those with asthma and allergies, but children in particular. The American Academy of Pediatrics posits that children and infants are among the most vulnerable to air pollutants due to their higher levels of activity and higher minute ventilation.[1] But virtually everyone is affected by the presence and subsequent levels of particulate matter (PM) in the environment.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been raising concerns over particulate matter (also known as particle pollution) for years. Defined as “a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets,”[2] PM is made up of numerous components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. According to the EPA, the size of these particles is what causes the alarm, since the size of the PM directly correlates to the potential to cause health problems.[3]


As noted on their website, the “EPA is concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.”[4] They group PM into two main categories: inhalable coarse particles and fine particles.


Inhalable coarse particles, which are often found near roadways and industrial areas, are larger than 2.5 micrometers and smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter. Fine particles can be classified as what’s found in smoke and haze, and are easily inhaled deep into the lungs. Once there, they may accumulate, react, be cleared or absorbed. These kinds of PM measure 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller. The EPA states that they “can be directly emitted from sources such as forest fires, or they can form when gases emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles react in the air.”[5]


PM is a problem in most industrialized cities worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “…fine particulate matter is associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illness, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases. Worldwide, it is estimated to cause about 16% of lung cancer deaths, 11% of COPD deaths, and more than 20% of ischemic heart disease and stroke.”[6] WHO goes on to point out that particulate matter is “an environmental health problem that affects people worldwide,” but that “low- and middle-income countries disproportionately experience this burden.”[7]


NASA phrases it this way: “In most cases, the most toxic pollution lingers for a few days or even weeks, bringing increases in respiratory and cardiac health problems at hospitals. Eventually the weather breaks, the air clears, and memories of foul air begin to fade. But that’s not to say that the health risks disappear as well. Even slightly elevated levels of air pollution can have a significant effect on human health. Over long periods and on a global scale, such impacts can add up.”[8]


The Health Department of New York has suggestions for anyone interested in lessening their exposure to PM. “When outdoor levels of PM2.5 are elevated, going indoors may reduce your exposure, although some outdoor particles will come indoors. If there are significant indoor sources of PM2.5, levels inside may not be lower than outside. Some ways to reduce exposure are to limit indoor and outdoor activities that produce fine particles (for example, burning candles indoors or open burning outdoors) and avoid strenuous activity in areas where fine particle levels are high.”[9]


While staying indoors can reduce exposure to PM, the EPA has also stated that indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air.[10] Using a high-end air purifier while inside your home can help, and there are some on the market that can filter out PM up to 0.3 micron. This double approach to reducing PM in the air you breathe is be a smart idea, especially if you or those in your family suffer from breathing difficulties.






[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid


[7] Ibid




Everyone’s Talking About It: Alkaline Water

Everyone’s Talking About It: Alkaline Water

The rumor is, Beyoncé insists on it[1]. Mark Wahlberg and Sean “Diddy” Combs are making a business out of it.[2] Professional athletes are onboard with it.

What are they doing? They’re drinking alkaline water.

Although it’s long been thought that alkaline water is great for hydration and wellness, it sometimes takes an unconventional method to push it into the limelight.

Last year, the UK’s Daily Mail broke the story of Beyonce’s concert rider for her Mrs. Carter tour. A rider is where celebrities will lay out, in no uncertain terms, the requests that must be fulfilled for themselves and their staff. According to online news sources, “The 31-year old singer is said to have a list of specific requirements for every venue on her Mrs. Carter world tour and her mandate includes alkaline water.”

And when one of the largest pop stars in the world is that serious about something, lots of people are going to take notice.

Beyoncé isn’t alone. Academy Award-nominated actor Mark Wahlberg and hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs took it a step further, teaming up to promote and develop high pH alkaline water called AQUAhydrate. The water, which boasts a 9+ alkalinity, has caught the attention of other celebrities and athletes alike. And at well over $4 for a liter ($15 per gallon), sharing water with notoriety does come at a hefty price.

As it turns out, business titan and musical kingmaker Russell Simmons is also somewhat of a health enthusiast. He’s partnered with Skinny Water, who has its own high alkaline water[3]. At $1.99 a liter ($7.54 per gallon), it’s half the price of AQUAhydrate, but still not a bargain, especially if you drink more than a liter a day.

Seemingly, the benefits of drinking alkaline water are making the rich and famous into believers. So how can you get on board without paying nearly $8 a gallon for the stuff? Consider investing in your own machine. By filling your own reusable bottles with an alkaline water machine, you cut down on the cost associated with shipping and handling of bottled water delivery, and you help do your part to reduce the number of plastic bottles that end up in landfills every year.

When you own your own machine, you may also be able to access acidic water, which is a great natural alternative for harsh cleaning agents. Clean fruits and veggies, wash down your countertop, mop your floor – all with a natural, safe byproduct of alkaline water. Using fewer cleaning chemicals can add to your yearly savings and make your home a healthier place to live.




Note: This story highlights some of the recent buzz concerning alkaline water and is for informational purposes only.  Beyoncé, Mark Wahlberg, Sean Combs and Russell Simmons do not endorse Vollara products and this article is not intended to imply any such an endorsement.