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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pollution and Cycling

Ever since Sabinna posted this article at Satin Cessena, I have been trying to think of the reports I have seen that suggest cycling helps to negate the effects of pollution and other health risks.

I finally found an old article that I think explains and compares the impact on one's health the different modes of commuting have. You can check it out: here

The study found that motorists registered the highest levels for all pollutants except nitrogen dioxide, while "cycling commuters had significantly lower levels of exposure to benzene compared with car commuters".

Dr Chris Rissel of the Central Sydney Area Health Service, one of the authors of the study, explains: "There are two competing explanations for our findings: the tunnel effect, where everybody is travelling in the same polluted corridors, and the leaking of the exhaust and fuel systems into vehicles."

So while cyclists are often able to take routes with little or no motor traffic and produce no pollution themselves, motorists get a double dose from vehicles around them and their own cars. High levels of benzene exposure for motorists in particular can be due only to the leaking of their own vehicle fuel system.

A similar European study in 1995, found that "even when account is taken of effort (a cyclist breathes on average two to three times as much as a motorist), the cyclist emerges as the victor of this comparison" (quoted in Cycling: the way ahead for cities and towns).

Victorian health professional Dr Jan Garrard points out that a regular cyclist is better able to deal with air pollution as well: "Physical activity enhances the immune system, so in general terms a fit person will have a stronger immune system".

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