Indian Cyclists Network

The Effect of Pollution on Bikers. Let's not be ignorant.

Now I've been biking regularly for the past few years in different international locations, including Chicago, London and now Bombay. Whilst I've read all about the effect of pollution on bikers, never have I experienced it more first hand than in Bombay. On a daily basis I ride in Bandra and a few days a week into town. The Bandra rides are usually between 5.30/6 PM until about 8 pm, and the rides to town are usually early mornings finishing by about 9 - 10 am. Weekends almost always I ride endurance, often covering over 60 km going up to about 120 km.

The Bandra rides and the ones into town early in the morning are usually quite pollution free, however, on the way back from the endurance distance, on a few occasions I've taken the Western Express or the Eastern Express Highway and LBS Marg as well. An alternate route back home to Bandra (which is my preferred option), os usually via the suburbs avoiding the highways. On the few occasions that for some reason or another (usually riding mates wanting to get back quickly via the shorter route along the highway), I have had to ride back at around 10 am onwards along the highway, I've developed a really bad chest congestion lasting several days. I believe this to be due to the excessive pollution on the highways once the traffic approaches peak levels post 9 am. The pollution I experienced and speak about is of several kinds: noise, smoke, smog, etc. Apart from the chest congestion, dry cough, etc what is also clearly visible is the amount of dust that gathers on my riding outfits. Outfits of course can be washed, however its neigh impossible to was out my innards or lungs. I did some more digging and found out some facts about the effect of pollution on bikers. The facts are listed below, which is basically cut and paste from various sources on the internet. Some remedies, and precautions are listed. The extreme precaution mentioned is of course, not riding outdoors of course, but hell, biking is an outdoor sport or activity, so that's not going to work for me, so I did a little research and chatted with some medical friends, and have come up with a few additional practical suggestions on how to avoid undue exposure to pollution.

A face mask is of course a great precaution, however there are some home remedies we can avail of that certainly helps. Good old steam inhalation, which really helps me clear out my smog filled lungs very quickly. Try it, it really works wonders. The other remedy is to go in for a steam bath or a sauna, which again removes toxins from our body quite effectively!

An addition precaution is actually an appeal to organizers to plan rides in such a manner so as to avoid very busy routes, and instead provide alternate routes that run off the arterial roads which are usually traffic, and pollutant heavy.

Here is the collation of articles, etc from the net for your benefit. Mind you I'm not about to give up biking anytime soon, but I will immediately start taking the post ride steps to guard against the effects of pollution on riders.

Air Pollution and Cyclists
When you take a bicycle instead of a car, you're getting several benefits. You're not paying for the gas you would've spent to get around. You're getting great cardio exercise and muscle work for your lower body. You're seeing your community up close, and you're contributing to a better environment for all of us in the future.

The problem comes in when you think about where you may be taking that bicycle. If you're cycling on rural roads, air quality may not seem like much of an issue, and it may not really affect your ride. But in cities, it's a whole other story. The air pollution caused by a large volume of passing traffic can have a serious effect on cyclists and other athletes or those involved in intensive physical workouts. Medical studies show that those who are exercising hard near traffic can breathe in up to 10 times as much particulate matter, or even more, than those who are simply at rest in the same environment. To make problems worse, even where traffic is not immediately present, the collective air pollution of all of our home and transportation systems can cause temporary bad air quality in a particular location, according to several factors. Local governments are now posting air quality information for residents to help them evaluate whether or not they should be outside at all.

Bad Air Effects
For cyclists who are biking right along with traffic, the emissions and other particulates from the exhaust can bypass the nasal lining and go deep into the lungs. This can cause some serious conditions over time.
For other cyclists, the effects are more immediate. Some, especially those who suffer from asthma related conditions, report itchiness, sore throats and other ailments related to braving the traffic on a bicycle.

Some Common Solutions
What do cyclists do to minimize this potential problem? Some find alternate routes, and some rely on manufactured gear to help filter out dangerous elements in the air. Different kinds of filtration masks are now on the market worldwide to help avid cyclists deal with air pollution. Not all of them are rated or provide credible proof of filtration, but in the cycling community, you may be able to find a consensus on which types of masks give the best protection at the cheapest price.

The prominent issue of how air pollution and bad air quality affects cyclists and pedestrians is one component of a greater debate about how to use resources, and how to implement public policy. In these kinds of situations, the personal often blends with the political as individuals seek to protect themselves from environmental hazards while encouraging better policy to alleviate the overall problem. Cyclists and others can take a look at the website of national government agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to see what their governments are doing about the worsening of air quality in their communities.

We all know that air pollution exists, but without feeling its effects every day, some of us might forget that it can affect us in more subtle ways that we might not immediately notice. One way that air pollution affects a community is in how it determines our exercise habits.
Common sense would dictate that it's good for you to go exercise or run outdoors. That's been the natural order of things for the entirety of human existence. But there is a new wrinkle in the story, and that has to do with the way that harmful pollutants and emissions are fouling up the air that we breathe.

Outdoor Exercise and Pollution Spikes
If you live in a "smog city," you probably know about it. However, more and more of today's communities are vulnerable to changing levels of air pollution. Things like carbon emissions, CFCs and more get pumped into the air every day, and some of them translate into a material reduction in the air quality where you are.

Many municipalities and local regions recognize that it's a key public service to let their residents know when the danger of suffering from air pollution is at higher levels due to a temporary rise in pollution or a "pollution spike." Some people refer to bad ozone days or other terms for a general warning about the lack of air quality on any given day. Many locals keep track of these reports, and use them to schedule their outdoor activities, including exercise.

How Air Pollution May Affect Your Fitness Session
If you are an asthmatic or have a similar respiratory condition, low air quality can have a physical effect. You may feel yourself getting winded earlier than usual, or needing to take a hit from an inhaler. This is a clue that a particular day may not be the best for running or another outdoor activity.
For those who don't have any of the above conditions, it may not be likely that you'll feel any effect whatsoever, even if you run on a "bad air day." Whether or not you want to pay attention to air quality schedules and plan your runs accordingly has to do with how you feel about the effects of air pollution on a long-term basis.

How Outdoor Exercise Interacts with Air Pollution
Medical experts have found that those involved in cardio exercise outdoors may be experiencing air pollution in a different way. Nose and throat specialists know that when the body is at work, air is often taken in through the mouth without as much nasal filtering as is done when the body is at rest. Because of this, runners, cyclists and the like can bear more of the burden of air pollution. Similarly, the bad air tends to get taken deeper into the lungs during intense physical activity.
The effects can be worse for those "working out on the street" or running or biking along with traffic. Some who are affected by air pollution may want to find a local park to run in, instead of hoofing it through busy streets where they may be vulnerable to additional pollution levels from passing vehicles.

Consider the above when planning your outdoor activities if you're bothered by the effects of air pollution in your local community.

Air pollution can be hazardous to your health. If you live in a city that has a lot of air pollution, you could actually be losing years off your life as a result of the pollution that surrounds you. That said, air pollution is obviously also a problem if you are trying to maintain an exercise routine. In fact, you lose weight by bringing oxygen into your body that helps your body to burn fat. However, if you are bringing in oxygen that is polluted, you could actually be hurting your body more than you're helping it. Rather than put your body through the rigors of breathing in polluted air, there are some simple breathing tricks that you can do in order to help your body avoid air pollution. Try these three tips to avoid air pollution:

1. Exercise with Oxygen Therapy
Though this is less a tip and more a technique for you to try, the truth is that exercise with oxygen therapy is one of the best ways to make sure that you only take in clean air when you exercise. When you exercise with oxygen therapy, you essentially work out at a facility that includes oxygen containers that pump out pure oxygen into the air. When you breathe this oxygen in, it's not 100 percent pure but it's extremely close. As a result, your body can make the most of the oxygen it takes in. You'll have more energy as a result of oxygen therapy, you'll burn calories more quickly and you'll avoid breathing in polluted air altogether.

2. Avoid Working Out Outside
It may seem too easy, but if you enjoy running outside during rush hour, there's a good chance you're breathing in air pollution throughout the course of your workout. You can avoid this altogether by working out indoors in a gym. Though all gyms do not contain air that's treated, there are many gyms that pump oxygen into the air. And even if they don't, you'll miss out on breathing in many pollutants simply by bringing your workout indoors.

3. Run in the Morning
If you have to run outside or you simply enjoy it more than working out indoors, try and get your daily workouts done in the morning. There is less air pollution outside during the early morning hours because there are not as many cars and trucks on the road providing air pollution. If you've ever stepped outside first thing in the morning, you can instantly feel the difference in the air. By working out in the morning, you'll get more oxygen to your lungs and the rest of your body without all of the air pollution.

Regardless of where you live, you can avoid air pollution by following these three simple tips. One of them should allow for you to conveniently work out without breathing in as much air pollution as you might be taking in now. Try one and you will start to maximize your workouts and deliver the cleanest air available to your body immediately.

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Comment by Zealot@gear bike shop on November 7, 2010 at 10:36am
hi. i have been using respro for 3 years, and thats why i chose them over other brands, to represent respro in India. we are now official delaers for respro, and would be happy to help you out.
Comment by taroon bali on October 29, 2010 at 12:29am
great info.
anybody have any first-hand experience with a respro? how effective and value-for-money is it? i plan to make the investment, and this article only reinforces what i've been thinking so far. but if people who use one can share some feedback, it'd be nice.
Comment by ADIL. B. GAZDAR. on October 27, 2010 at 1:25pm
Very informative Sumir, I applaud your efforts of your research. I have been doing a lot of whatever you've written, over the years & it does minimise the ill-effects of pollution a great deal...
Comment by AMITABH AGRAWAL on October 20, 2010 at 6:53am
Very informative stuff. One more reason to buy a folder. Do your rides early morning and if the return leg of journey has to be on busy ,polluted roads, fold the cycle and take a cab.


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