Facts about fine dust

Fine dust consists of all airborne particles smaller than 10 microns.

Thus, fine dust a defined upper limit but practically no lower limit.

This means – and this has been neglected for years [1] – millions of fine and ultrafine particles are part of the fine dust and cause respiratory and health problems [2, 3] that are increasing more and more.

While large particles are mainly deposited in the upper respiratory tract and bronchial branches, fine and ultrafine particles reach the finest ramifications and the alveoli.

Such ultrafine particles can also enter the bloodstream via the alveoli and be transferred to the tissue and organs, causing permanent damage [4].

These particles, which come from combustion processes, such as soot particles, industrial exhaust fumes, traffic emissions and diesel soot, know no difference between outdoor air and indoor spaces [5], they are everywhere.

Due to laser printers, mold spores, etc., fine dust is even more problematic indoors, where people spend a lot of time working, living and sleeping [6] than outside.

Particles are carcinogenic [7], make you ill [8] and cause immense health care costs [9].

Practical example and effect

Fine dust PM10 in the city Zürich/Switzerland

Fine dust (PM10), also known as suspended dust, is a mixture of tiny particles with a diameter of less than a hundredth of a millimeter (10 µm). In the city, motorized road traffic is one of the main causes of high fine dust pollution.

Fine dust is a mixture of diesel soot, soot particles from oil and wood furnaces, abrasion particles from tires and road surfaces, but it also consists of airborne particles and particles from illegal waste incineration and natural mineral components. Particle formation from gaseous precursor pollutants, namely nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and ammonia, also plays an important role. In addition, substances such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and dioxins, some of which can be carcinogenic and mutagenic, adhere to the particles from combustion processes.

1 Inhalable fine dust with a diameter of 2.5 to 10 μm is inhaled approximately up to the larynx or trachea.

2 Respirable fine dust 1 to 2.5 μm, reaches deep into the lungs via the airway and bronchi.

Ultrafine particles smaller than 1 μm penetrate deep into the avelons (air sacs), from where they are removed very slowly or not at all and some of them get into the bloodstream.


[1] Schuh H. (2005): Fine dust – ignorance at its finest. Die Zeit, Online Knowledge, May 4, 2005 2:00 p.m

http://www.zeit.de/2005/19/Feinst_8aube [access date: 09/30/2021].

[2] Peters A., Heinrich J. and Wichmann H.E. (2002): Health effects of particulate matter – Epidemiology of short-term effects. Umweltmed Forsch Prax 7, 101-116.

[3] Heinrich J., Grote V., Peters A. and Wichmann H.E. (2002): Health effects of particulate matter – epidemiology of long-term effects. Umweltmed Forsch Prax 7, 91-99.

[4] Suglia F., Gryparis S.A., Wright R.O., Schwartz J. and Wright R.J. (2008) Association of Black Carbon with Cognition among Children in a Prospective Birth Cohort Study. At the. J. Epidemiol. 2008, 167(3): 280-286.

[5] BéruBé K., Jones T. and Jones C. (2008): Environmental Particles – A breath of fresh air? In Focus – Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society, Issue 9 MARCH 2008: 6-18.

https://www.rms.org.uk/ [accessed 30/09/2021].

[6] Schneider F. and M. Steinhöfel (2013): Indoor particulate matter – know, recognize, avoid! EU Environment Academy, Rosenheim, 53 p.

[7] WHO IARC (2012): DIESEL ENGINE EXHAUST CARCINOGENIC, press release No 213, June 12th 2012, IARC, 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69372 Lyon CEDEX 08, France.


[Retrieved 09/30/2021].

[8] Shah, A.SV., J.P. Langrish , Nair H, McAllister DA, Hunter AL, Donaldson K, DE Newby to the N.L. Mills (2013): Global association of air pollution and heart failure: a systematic review and meta-analysis The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 10 July 2013. Elsevier Ltd.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)60898-3/fulltext [Retrieved: 07/15/2013]

[9] Accordini S, Corsico AG, Braggion M, Gerbase MW, Gislason D, Gulsvik A, Heinrich J, Janson C, Jarvis D, Jogi R, Pin I, Schoefer Y, Bugiani M., Cazzoletti L., Cerveri I., Marcon A., and de Marco R., (2013): The cost of persistent asthma in Europe: An international population-based study in adults. Int Arch. Allergy Immunol. 160, 93-101 (2013

[10] Practical example and effect

Fine dust: city Zürich/Switzerland


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