Fine particulates kill. They’re so tiny—less than 2.5 micrograms (about 1/10,000th of an inch). Because they’re too small to be coughed out of your lungs like other irritants, these deadly particles, which often contain toxic compounds such as mercury and arsenic, slip deep into the tissues of the lungs…and eventually into the bloodstream.
Environmental researchers have been concerned about them for years. But now a large new study of more than 500,000 Americans reveals just how nasty they are. People who live in areas with the highest levels were 3% more likely to die from any cause, 10% more likely to get heart disease and, among nonsmokers, 27% more likely to get respiratory diseases, compared with people who live in the cleanest areas.