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( Article Type: Explanation )

Particulates is the term used to describe either particles of solid matter or droplets of liquid that are small or light enough to remain suspended in the atmosphere for short periods of time. The solid particles would be made up of dust, soil, soot, ash, asbestos, lead nitrate and sulphate salts and the liquid drops would include sulphuric acid, PCBs, dioxins and pesticides. Those particulates that are smaller than 10 microns (1 micron = one millionth of a metre) are small enough to reach the lower parts of the human lungs and can contribute to lung and respiratory disease.

Control of particulates is an important aspect of any air quality management programme; it is important that particulates are measured and controlled in order to prevent them causing health problems to communities. Coal is still a major source of cooking fuel and heating in South Africa, and, combined with the fact that much of the coal burnt is low quality with a high ash content, means that particulates are a specific problem in air quality management.