Particle Pollution Resources

Blue sky tops a layer of smog that blankets Fresno, Calif., in this Aug. 15, 2002, file photo.
AP Photo/Fresno Bee

Americans breathe small amounts of polluted air. And not just from power plants. Trucks, cars and even fires produce microscopic soot particles and chemicals that can damage your lungs.

What is particle pollution?

Particle pollution refers to a combination of fine solids and aerosols that are suspended in the air. Particles range in size from the tiny to the microscopic.

What is the source of particles in the air?

According to the American Lung Association, combustion of fossil fuels is the major source of fine particle emissions into the atmosphere. They may be emitted into the air as smoke from wood stoves or agricultural burning or as soot from the exhaust of diesel trucks, buses and heavy equipment. Fine particles can also be formed from gaseous emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides and organic compounds that are transformed in the atmosphere into sulfate, nitrate, and carbonaceous aerosols. The major sources of these emissions are coal-fired power plants, factories, and cars.

How can you limit exposure to fine particle air pollution?

The American Lung Association offers the following tips:
  • Avoid exercising near high-traffic areas
  • Do not exercise outdoors when particle levels are high, or substitute an activity that requires less exertion
  • Eliminate indoor smoking
  • Reduce use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves
  • To learn more about particle air pollution:

    • The American Lung Association has more information about polluted air.

    • Explore air pollution throughout the U.S., and find out which cities have the worst air quality with an interactive from

    • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Unified Air Toxics website has more information about air toxics.