Respirable Particles

Respirable particles are a collective group of fine solid particles, dust, mist, aerosols, smoke, fumes, and fibers that can interfere with the respiratory system. Respirable particles can come from many sources, including fireplaces, kerosene heaters and wood stoves. The main indoor causes of respirable particles are fibers, asbestos, and tobacco smoke.

Health Effects

Inhaling these particles can cause irritation in the eye, nose and/or throat, respiratory infections (such as coughs, wheezing, and excess phlegm), bronchitis, and cancer. Tobacco smoke and asbestos are classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as Class A carcinogens, chemicals known to cause cancer in humans. Tobacco smoke and asbestos are particularly harmful to young children and infants, causing lower respiratory tracts, abdominal diseases, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.


Here are a few easy, necessary steps to help lower the levels of respirable particles inside the home.

  • The first step is regular cleaning, dusting and vacuuming. Ensure that your vacuum has an adequate high efficiency filtering device.
  • It’s important that all furnaces are vented to the outdoors. If you are using an unvented space heater, make sure that the doors to the rest of the house are kept open to promote necessary ventilation.
  • When using a woodstove, ensure that the stove is properly sized for the space and that the doors fit tightly. Woodstoves should always be certified to meet EPA emission standards.
  • Commit to annual inspections, cleaning and tune-ups of any central heating system (including chimneys, flues, and furnaces) by a trained profession. Make sure that any leaks are promptly and properly repaired.
  • Regularly change the filters on your air cleaners, cooling and central heating systems. Always follow the manufacture’s directions when changing the filters.

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