Joggers, cyclists and walkers are exposed in a surprising amount of risks in inhaling airborne pollutants during commute.
Source Photo: The Economist
If you're walking at a crowded street like the unforgiving Time Square in the busiest hour, you might not know that having to slow down while braving the crowd has health benefits for you.
Being able to cruise smoothly in smog-rich city with your top down might give more harm to your health than being stuck in traffic.
According to a new study in University of British Columbia, going faster in your commute like when walking the street or biking can dramatically increase your chances to inhale airborne pollutants. An active commuter gets bombarded with all kinds of pollutants
from carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulates to soot.
Alex Bigazzi, a transportation expert in the department of civil engineering said that there is point in the spectrum between your own phase and the phase of traffic that you need to be in sync with to prevent higher exposure to air pollutants.
“The faster you move, the harder you breathe and the more pollution you could potentially inhale, but you also are exposed to traffic for a shorter period of time.”
“You don’t want to go real slow and you don’t want to power through.”
So let's dive in to the numbers to get a better grasp on how you can juggle between the spectrum of pollutants with your own phasing out in the streets.
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In a flat road, cyclists usually get the optimal speed of 13 kmh, obviously going faster at 20 kmh will not help. Bigazzi said that going 10kmh above the optimal speed will put you at risk of inhaling the pollutants by two to four times more.
Runners also take in more pollutants than walkers. It is found that we are more at risk in exposure to VOCs by 100 to 200-per-cent higher on high-traffic arterial routes and roads through industrial areas.
Cyclists are prone to getting 40 to 100-per-cent higher levels of toxicants in their blood after riding just six to nine kilometres on heavily used urban streets.
The study is published in International Journal of Sustainable Transportation.
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