Fine dust

These past 10-15 years, increasing fine dust pollution has become an important issue not only in Austria but also in the entire EU. Statutory limit values of particulate matter in the air have been exceeded for years and the subject of penalties has been raised. EU- infringement proceedings against Austria due to excessive limit values in Graz are pending.  

Emissions and weather conditions (cold spells) are the main source for high levels of particulate matter. About one third of pollutants are caused by the industry, one fifth by transport and one fourth by energy use in households (wood and coal stoves). In areas with an excess of fine dust pollution, heads of provincial governments may even impose driving bans in Low Emission Zones.

Fine dust („Particulate Matter“, PM) is the dust we don´t see. Particles are on average ten micrometers in size (PM10), which corresponds to one hundredth of a meter. Larger particles are intercepted by mucous membrane in nose, mouth and throat but smaller particles can penetrate the smallest lung bronchioles and may cause severe damage, resulting in anything from respiratory disorders to lung cancer.

The dust´s strongest impact can be felt in the heart and cardiovascular system where inhaled dust has been proven to cause heart attacks. All over the EU, 65.000 persons die prematurely every year due the effects of fine dust. It shortens the average life span of each European by eight, 6 months.

Even though fine dust pollution of ambient air is currently the most hotly debated issue, exposure to fine dust is even higher indoors – provided persons smoke there. The problem is particularly acute inside cars. European countries that have introduced a complete ban on smoking in venues, public buildings etc. have registered a decrease in heart-attack related deaths between eight and 20 percent within just one year. 

Please refer to our press release of October 15, 2013
To the article

Escape-study reveals 
Too much emissions

The current EU study "Escape" proves the relationship between mortality and air pollution. An international research team amassed data of 22 individual studies from different European countries for a statistical analysis. Thus, a study population of 367.251 people in total were examined.

The scientists compared the mortality with the concentration of nitrogen oxides and dust particles in the air. So they found out that dust particles with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, so-called PM2.5 particles, are more dangerous than previously thought.

They believe now the annual mortality risk with increasing PM2.5 pollution continues to rise - by 7% per increase of five micrograms per cubic meter of air. That means, people who live in an environment with an average of 20 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air we breathe, have a 14 % higher risk of dying at a precisely predetermined time, than people which live in a place with an average PM2.5 concentration.

According to animal experiments and experiments with cell cultures ultra fine dust particles having a diameter of less than 0.5 micrometer are avle to penetrate cell membranes. They get into the bloodstream and vital organs. The tiny particles also pass via the olfactory nerves to the brain. What kind of reactions they trigger there and elsewhere in the body depends on their chemical composition. The more oxidative stress they cause in the cells, the higher the risk.

See also press article from March 2014