Particulate Matter, or “soot,” is made of microscopically small particles, either solid or liquid. The smaller the particles, the deeper they can penetrate into the respiratory system and the more significant health problems they can create.
Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameters can cause significant health problems. Particles under 2.5 micrometers, called “fine” particles, are considered the most dangerous. Fine particles can easily bypass filters in the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs. Wood smoke from woodstoves and fireplaces is the major source of particulate matter in the wintertime in the Bay Area.
This can lead to increased permeability, or the ability of liquids and gases to pass through to the lungs.
As a result, chemicals can be released that can impact heart function.
This can lead to the rapid loss of airway function.
Clots can then occur that lead to heart attacks.
Pneumonia can result in vulnerable people who are unable to clear these infections.
Since the 1980s, many scientific studies have been published that correlate the exposure to wood smoke and particulate matter with serious public health effects, such as higher instances of asthma, decreased lung function in children, increased hospital admissions, and elevated mortality rates.