Any bicyclist who has ridden city streets after a spring thaw and tasted salt in the evaporation coming off the road knows what a new study in Britain has found; city cyclists breath in copious amounts of particulates. According to the report, riders take in as much as five times that of drivers and pedestrians on the same route in city travel, much of it from internal combustion engines.
According to the London Times, this is because cyclists breathe a lot more air than other travelers, thanks to the vigorous nature of their transportation. They take in millions of potentially-toxic particles with every breath, many of them so small that not even a hospital mask would keep them out. The British study, in which bicyclists were fitted with special masks to identify what they were breathing in as they peddled around town, found numerous substances that are tied to health problems such as heart and respiratory diseases.
This study seems to reinforce findings that Ann Brenoff reported here in February, about a study that linked automotive exhaust and atherosclerosis. It concluded that people who lived adjacent to a Lost Angeles freeway suffered twice the rate of progression of the disease.
Of course, the cyclist's increased exposure to particulates must be weighed against the health-enhancing benefits of bicycling, which provides a cardiovascular workout that can help counteract the effects of environmental pollution. It also does a great job of soothing the troubled mind, minds perhaps troubled by the chunky nature of the air they are forced to share.
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