Atmospheric particulate matter - also known as particulates or particulate matter (PM) - are tiny pieces of solid or liquid matter associated with the Earth's atmosphere. They are suspended in the atmosphere as atmospheric aerosol, a term which refers to the particulate/air mixture, as opposed to the particulate matter alone. However, it is common to use the term aerosol to refer to the particulate component alone.Sources of particulate matter can be man made or natural. They can adversely affect human health and also have impacts on climate and precipitation. Subtypes of atmospheric particle matter include suspended particulate matter (SPM), respirable suspended particle (RSP; particles with diameter of 10 micrometres or less), fine particles (diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less, "ultrafine particles," and soot.
The small particles are smaller than 2.5 micrometers (100 times thinner than a human hair). These particles are called PM2.5 (we say "P M two point five", as in Particulate Matter up to 2.5 micrometers in size).
The big particles are between 2.5 and 10 micrometers (from about 25 to 100 times thinner than a human hair). These particles are called PM10 (we say "P M ten", which stands for Particulate Matter up to 10 micrometers in size). These particles cause less severe health effects.
Air Quality Index(AQI)
An air quality index (AQI) is a number used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air is currently or how polluted it is forecast to become. As the AQI increases, an increasingly large percentage of the population is likely to experience increasingly severe adverse health effects. Different countries have their own air quality indices which are not all consistent. Different countries also use different names for their indices such as Air Quality Health Index, Air Pollution Index and Pollutant Standards Index.