Cyclists in cities inhale more black carbon than pedestrians — and this may damage their lungs, evidence shows.
Automobiles discharge a huge quantity of soot or black carbon particles from their exhausts. Increasing evidence shows their inhalation is linked with a range of health effects, including heart attacks and reduced lung function.
Researchers led by Jonathan Grigg, professor from Barts and the London School of Medicine, investigated how cyclists have higher personal exposure to black carbon while commuting to work.
They compared the lung dose of soot in cyclists and pedestrians by sampling a lower airway cell called the airway macrophage, which ingests foreign material, according to a Barts statement.
The researchers collected sputum samples from adults who regularly cycled to work and an equal number of pedestrians. They were non-smoking healthy urban commuters aged between 18 and 40 years.
The results showed that cyclists have 2.3-times more black carbon in their lungs when compared with pedestrians. The probability that this difference occurred by chance is less than 1 in 100.
Chinedu Nwokoro, one of the researchers and an active cyclist, said: “The results have shown that cycling in a large city increases exposure to black carbon.
“This could be (because) cyclists breathe more deeply and at a quicker rate than pedestrians while in closer proximity to exhaust fumes, which could increase the number of airborne particles penetrating the lungs.”
The research was presented at the European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress in Amsterdam Sunday.