As many as 64,000 premature deaths occur each year from cardiopulmonary causes attributable to particulate air pollution, according to the estimates of Natural Resource Defence Counsil. Most particulate emissions result from burning fossil fuels -- coal, oil, diesel, gasoline -- or wood. Old coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers, diesel and gas-powered vehicles and wood stoves are some of the worst culprits. High-temperature industrial processes such as metal smelting and steel production are also significant sources.
Everyone can help cut down on particulate matter pollution by conserving energy and choosing cleaner, more efficient energy sources for home heating and cooling, transportation, and appliances.
Read more about other types of particles in the air, including PM10.