Riding a bike to work or to do errands is a great way to get around town.
Exercise is good for both your body and mind.
However, in bigger cities where pollution and smog are an issue, cyclists may be exposing themselves to too much pollution. This health e-letter covers health news from a recent study performed at the London School of Medicine.
The British researchers found that urban cyclists may be exposed to more than twice as much black carbon from
vehicle exhaust as pedestrians. For the study, the scientists examined the airway cells found in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lower airways) in 10 people who regularly cycled or walked in an urban center. They found
that black carbon levels were 2.3 times higher in the five cyclists compared to the five pedestrians.
The researchers noted that there was no statistically significant difference between cyclists and pedestrians in any other category.
These categories included average age, distance from home to major roads, lung function, and even the amount of time spent exercising. The researchers’ suggest that the main reason why soot seems to collect in the lungs of cyclists more rapidly than those who walk is that cyclists breathe more deeply and faster than pedestrians while they are riding in traffic.
Black carbon is a somewhat nasty pollutant that results when gasoline or diesel fuel is burned. Most motor vehicles contribute to rising levels of black carbon. This pollutant has been associated with a number of health conditions, including heart disease and asthma.
So what can you do? Cycling is generally healthy for you, but what if you live in an urban area?
The researchers suggest you should still cycle to get all the health benefits, but try to avoid areas with heavy traffic.
Plan your route around less polluted areas and save your lungs from high levels of black carbon and soot.
If you have a heart condition, or have had a heart attack, it’s probably wise to follow this health advice: don’t regularly cycle on heavily used roads. The researchers hope to post more recommendations based on their study results in the near future.
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