Reuters/Tony Melville

London bike commuters found to breathe in more soot than pedestrians

If you bike to work, you’ve probably got pretty nice thighs. Your lungs, though, may not be in such great shape.

New research has found that bicycle commuters inhale more than twice the amount of black carbon particles as pedestrians making a comparable trip. That healthy bike ride to and from work might be getting you out of a car, but it’s not getting you out of the way of the automobile emissions.

The study, led by Professor Jonathan Grigg from Barts and the London School of Medicine, looked at bicycle and pedestrian commuters in London to determine whether different modes of travel exposed commuters to higher levels of black carbon. By comparing levels of carbon in the lungs of five healthy bicycle commuters to the levels of five healthy pedestrian commuters, the researchers found a large disparity. The bicycle commuters had 2.3 times more black carbon in their lungs. They claim that the probability of this happening by chance is less than one percent.

Fuel-combustion creates this black carbon, or soot, which can be inhaled and which persists in the lungs, creating potential health risks. Following on the hypothesis that bicycle commuters’ heavier breathing would expose them to more of the particulate pollutants created by fuel-burning traffic, the researchers were relatively unsurprised by their results, which were presented at this weekend's European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress.

“Our data strongly suggest that personal exposure to black carbon should be considered when planning cycling routes,” said Dr. Chinedu Nwokoro, one of the researchers in the study and an active cyclist. “Whether cycling by healthy individuals is in itself associated with adverse health effects is currently being assessed in a larger ongoing study.”

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of L.A.'s vacant Hawthorne Federal Building.
    Equity

    The Trump Administration Wants to Relocate Skid Row to This Federal Building

    Los Angeles homeless providers were rebuffed when they asked to use Cesár Pelli’s Hawthorne Building, which the White House is eyeing to relocate Skid Row residents.

  2. a photo of a woman on a SkyTrain car its way to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.
    Transportation

    In the City That Ride-Hailing Forgot, Change Is Coming

    Fears of congestion and a powerful taxi lobby have long kept ride-hailing apps out of transit-friendly Vancouver, British Columbia. That’s about to change.  

  3. Groups of people look at their phones while sitting in Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
    Life

    How Socially Integrated Is Your City? Ask Twitter.

    Using geotagged tweets, researchers found four types of social connectedness in big U.S. cities, exemplified by New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Miami.

  4. black children walking by a falling-down building
    Equity

    White Americans’ Hold on Wealth Is Old, Deep, and Nearly Unshakeable

    White families quickly recuperated financial losses after the Civil War, and then created a Jim Crow credit system to bring more white families into money.

  5. Equity

    What Is Loitering, Really?

    America’s laws against lingering have roots in Medieval and Elizabethan England. Since 1342, the goal has always been to keep anyone “out of place” away.

×