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Air pollution is bad for you - official
11.09.08 by Buffalo Bill

A story headlined Capital’s couriers lungs in jeopardy in the ‘greenlondon’ section of thelondonpaper, quotes Alison McConnell of Brunel University as saying that new research indicated that exercising in polluted areas increased the amount of pollution particles breathed into the body.

Well, wow, that is truly astonishing news. Not really new news, though. Moving Target has been flagging the potential dangers to couriers from bad air for a couple of decades, and anti-pollution masks have been around for a while. And there have been a host of studies on the effects of urban air pollution on human health, like this study published by the BMJ in 2004, the conclusion of which was that athletes and exercisers should avoid exercising by the road side, which is less than totally helpful advice for couriers.

So what has prompted the re-emergence of this story now? A quick trawl through google reveals this interesting (in the context of this not-new-news story) snippet, published in PR Week, dated 5 Sep 2008:

Six Degrees has been appointed by Brunel University spin-off company LifeLab Innovations to promote Purebreathe, its respiratory protection device. The agency will target the sports and health media. Purebreathe is designed to filter air pollution, dust and pollen.

Call me cynical, but I think the two bits of non-news are NOT unrelated. While we are being cynical, let me expand on the point that I made to the lady from the Londonpaper, when she phoned me up to ask for my comments on the ‘story’. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wants to do away with the Low Emissions Zone. As MT reported before the election:

I have seen some figures that estimate that around 1000 Londoners die prematurely each year from respiratory illnesses caused directly, or indirectly by bad air, and it has been known that London suffers the worst air quality in the UK, and amongst the worst in Europe, for some time. The Low Emissions Zone forces commercial vehicle operators to clean up their vehicles’ exhaust, which should lead to significant improvements in air quality. Boris thinks this initiative is ‘the most punitive, draconian fining regime in the whole of Europe’.

If Boris was genuinely committed to improving the lot of cyclists, and wanted to do something positive, he ought to consider strengthening it, not doing away with it. Anyway. If you want to check out current reported levels of pollution, you can do so at the London Air Quality Network.

  1. Air pollution is bad for you? You’re joking, yeah?

    — lb    12 September 2008, 08:34    #
  2. But note that there are studies showing that drivers are exposed to worse pollution inside their cars, than cyclists are. i.e. it might be bad for cyclists, but those studies would appear to show it is even worse for drivers.

    — nt    12 September 2008, 10:18    #
  3. i just realised this site publishes link to your email address with your comment. bad! as in not good! is this why i been getting more spam lately????

    — lb    12 September 2008, 10:41    #
  4. Just put in a fake one – like I just have.

    — Bill    12 September 2008, 12:32    #
  5. Nt, yeah, car drivers get the worst of it – but ALL the studies show that cyclists suffer some health effects from pollution.

    — Bill    12 September 2008, 12:35    #
  6. In my opinion air pollution is really dangerous for everyone living on the earth.
    <a href=”http://www.ahinfosource.com”>ahinfosource</a>

    marry    12 September 2008, 13:01    #
  7. everyone but me, naturally.

    — footlong    12 September 2008, 15:31    #
  8. I recently found out that food, water and breathing is good for you.

    — lb    14 September 2008, 10:57    #
  9. I worry more about all dem fags and that.

    jontyponty    15 September 2008, 12:23    #
  10. I here that in 2012 we’re all gonna die.

    — overdrive    15 September 2008, 13:49    #
  11. Don’t you mean Be filled with great joy and patriotism as our magnificent athletes help to make the London Olympics the greatest there has ever been?

    — will    16 September 2008, 20:34    #
  12. No,there will be lots of death.

    — overdrive    17 September 2008, 14:22    #
  13. @ “Buffalo Bill”…Just to clarify…

    1. Until I undertook my study, there was NO research evidence (only anecdote) linking air pollution to the respiratory health of cycle couriers. Unfortunately, policy makers don’t listen to bloggers’ opinions, they listen to scientists who provide actual evidence.

    2. The study was part of a process of establishing the market need for a novel respiratory protective product and providing evidence that said product ‘does what it says on the can’. This is simple due diligence by a company with some integrity, not a PR stunt.

    Professor Alison McConnell

    Alison McConnell    15 October 2008, 16:47    #
  14. Errrr. Yes, there was. A Friends of the Earth study in 1989 on the effects of lead in vehicle exhaust, which used cycle couriers as subjects. Reported in the old print version of Moving Target.

    — Bill    15 October 2008, 18:15    #
  15. Errrr. Now you’re just showing your ignorance Bill. Read the words I wrote carefully… “respiratory health”. Lead does not affect respiratory health, particulate matter does. Besides which, the amount of lead in exhaust gases has fallen dramatically since 1989 (you can’t buy leaded fuel any longer…). My study showed that even at so-called safe levels of particulate matter (according to the World Health Organisation), cycle couriers experienced changes in their lung function that, by rights, they shouldn’t have. That’s new, it’s important, and it’s relevant. I’m on your side, so why do you insist on treating this as a points scoring exercise?

    — Alison McConnell    15 October 2008, 18:54    #
  16. OK, the point I made in the original article was that bad air isn’t news, and it wasn’t clear (and still isn’t) when this study was done.

    That was the general point I was making. I also don’t think that, yet again, cyclists should be encouraged to think that a technical fix (whose efficacy I have no reason to doubt), which they have to pay for, is the answer to the problem of motor vehicle exhaust when the clear principle is: the polluter pays.

    I might be an ignorant blogger (oh, and thanks for putting my name in quotes, btw), but even I can recognise a bad deal when I see one. Which is why I linked this story to the LEZ, which would probably do more for cyclists respiratory health than yet another technical fix.

    — Bill    15 October 2008, 19:27    #
  17. Bill and Allison in the ring at the LCEF fight night, Ding, Round 1, fight.

    — Zack Speedfast    15 October 2008, 19:27    #
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