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Medical Airborne particles - Particle Physics

  1. Nov 14, 2007 #1
    I saw a recent question submitted where the person was seeking answers to particle physics due to the debilatating illness of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

    I wondered whether somebody could answer this question in relation to airborne particles. In for example an work/office environment are particles passed between humans i.e. people in that office and if so at what sort of volume? Is it the tiniest of specs or are you completed covered?

    The main areas of concern are for example dust mites and human skin cells and the air people breath out. Are you covered in other peoples breath that they are exhaling?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2007 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    Particle Physics deals with sub-atomic particles - like protons.

    What you seem to be describing is possibly a sick building, one where the ventilation system recirculates airborne particles, or picks up particles from dirty air ducts or faulty cooling systems.

    If you want guage the particle load, wait until dark, turn off all lights, use the Tyndall effect. You know, when you are in a dark movie theater you can "see" the beam of light from the projector passing thru suspended particles.

    Even in the best buildings, humans leave a trail of their own particles behind them. This is how a bloodhound is able to track people through the woods, for example, by detecting those particles on the ground and on low plant branches. Humans shed a large number of skin particles, sometimes called scales, every day. This is normal.

    I'm not sure what you need to know.
  4. Nov 14, 2007 #3
    I need to know whether Mr A will have particles on his body from other people who have been in same room/building i.e. Mr B to Mr Z etc.

    If Mr A does have particles on his body or clothes from other people what percentage of his body or clothes would be covered with particles from those people.

    Also other than particles for instance when Mr B to Mr Z breaths out is Mr A covered in exhalants from their breath.
  5. Nov 14, 2007 #4

    jim mcnamara

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    Short answer - yes. Particles from everybody are in the air. Everywhere. Coverage on person Z from person A - indeterminate coverage, but likely infinitesimally small. I would guess that a dog could easily tell who else you were near during the day, hours later, simply by smelling the particles.

    Ditto sneeze "stuff" - everywhere
    Ditto exhaled matter - everywhere

    Think about people with allergies. They may have bad symptoms from an outside plant inside a room with sealed windows. They may be sneezing from the pollen that shakes off their coworkers and their own clothing. Or think about getting in an idle elevator - the doors close and you can smell cologne from someone who used the elevator 10 minutes before.

    There are ways to minimize particle spread with good ventilation systems.
  6. Nov 14, 2007 #5
    In the case you mention the amount of particulate matter in the air is not really the problem. It is the OCD that causes worry about it that is the real trouble.

    PF member honestrosewater also has this condition and has talked about it in detail here. It can be quite debilitating. The inventor Nikola Tesla suffered from this as did Howard Hughs.

    There are various courses of treatment and therapy someone can pursue. Honestrosewater hasn't been posting much lately, but she would know what the options are.
  7. Nov 15, 2007 #6
    It is the paricles that concern me but how small are the particles i could expect to be on me from other people?

    What percentage of particles on my body/clothes could i expect to be covered from other peoples particles or exhaled air?

    Also how long would it take for a room to be cleared of someone else's particles in the air? Or of i enter a room briefly for say 30 seconds is that enough time for me to covered in the particles.
  8. Nov 15, 2007 #7

    jim mcnamara

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    You may want to accept the fact we cannot know the answers to your questions. Particles are everywhere, and unless you live in a specially vented, sealed room you cannot avoid them. Period. End of discussion. You may want to talk to your doctor about the particle problem. Surgeons and people in charge of operating room maintenance worry about this exact problem all the time. S/He can probably help.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2007
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