A recent study conducted in the Uk, suggests that air pollution is worse for drivers than it is for cyclists.
Using air quality monitors, researchers studied the effects that air pollution had on a group of drivers and cyclists during a 10-day period in London.
While the study revealed, that high levels of nitrogen dioxide were registered by the group of cyclists, levels of small particulate matter from diesel fumes – associated with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions – were consistently higher for the drivers.
In fact, in some cases, the pollution levels registered by the drivers were on par with cities such as Beijing, which is notorious for having extreme levels of air pollution.
In addition, for six out of the ten days, the drivers registered pollution levels in excess of World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended limits, as compared to the cyclists, who’s levels of exposure always remained below.
Professor Gavin Shaddock of the University of Bath explained: “Being in a car is not like being in a sealed box.”
“Winding up your windows may give you the perception that the air isn’t coming through the windows and that you might have reduced your exposure to air pollution, but the intakes for the car’s air system are at the front of the car. And the problem is, they’re generally at the level of the exhaust pipe of the car in front of you.”
He added: “The advantages of cycling, of course, are that you are getting health benefits from actually having exercise and it’s been shown that that would outweigh the harm that would be caused by breathing in bad air.”
Last year scientists at the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia studied the risks and benefits of cycling in varying levels of air pollution around the world. The research showed that only in the top one percentile of the world’s most polluted cities, did the ill effects of poor air quality outweigh the benefits of exercise.
However, the study showed that bike messengers were an exception, wherein the health benefits of cycling were cancelled out by prolonged periods spent in areas of poor air quality.
The full study can be read here.
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