Particulate matter

PM2.5

Incinerators may emit fine particles, and the EU Waste Incineration Directive puts limits on emissions to air of heavy metals, dust, and total organic carbon, among other pollutants. Therefore, incinerators operate a filtration system to control particulate emissions.

Emissions of particulate matter from an incinerator typical of those currently operating in the UK (230,000 tonnes per year) are approximately equivalent to emissions from a 5 km stretch of typical motorway. That is, emissions from the Exeter Incinerator will be approximately equivalent to the emissions from the M5 between junctions 29 and 30.

PM10 is defined as the mass of particles of less than about 10 microns (or one-hundredth of a mm) in diameter per cubic metre of air. PM2.5 is the mass of particles of less than about 2.5 microns in diameter per cubic metre of air. PM10 and PM2.5 samples from around the world can vary substantially in their chemical composition and size distribution, and it is possible that associated metals and ultrafine particles are important. Yet international and national regulations are currently framed in terms of mass concentrations instead of, say, the chemical (metallic) composition, the number of particles and total surface area of particles per unit volume of air, or the capacity of particles to generate free radicals.

Long term exposure to particles affects the risk of mortality, especially from cardiovascular disease and from lung cancer. Short-term increases in concentrations cause increases in deaths from and hospital admissions for heart attacks and respiratory disease, and related symptoms.

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