Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Health Risks with Cycling near Traffic

Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Acute Changes in Heart Rate Variability and Respiratory Function in Urban Cyclists (6 page pdf, Scott Weichenthal, Ryan Kulka, Aimee Dubeau, Christina Martin, Daniel Wang, Robert Dales, Environ Health Perspect, Oct. 2011)

Today’s review article looks at the health risks for cyclists exposed to high and low levels of traffic along the routes they take each day during the summer of 2010 in Ottawa, a city famous for its extensive network of bike paths and lanes. Conclusion is that cycling near traffic presents higher health risk for heart disease but not respiratory disease.

Key Quotes:

“exposure to traffic-related air pollution is known to contribute to adverse respiratory and cardiovascular outcomes, and even modest reductions in air pollution levels resulting from a shift from automobiles to bicycles may have important public health benefits”

“short-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution may contribute to changes in the autonomic regulation of the heart in the hours immediately after cycling”

“we did not observe strong associations between traffic-related air pollution and acute changes in respiratory outcomes”

“our findings suggest that, when possible, it may be prudent to select cycling routes that reduce exposure to traffic and to avoid cycling outdoors or to exercise indoors on days with elevated air pollution levels”

“the planning of new cycling routes/bicycle paths in urban areas should aim to minimize time spent in high-traffic areas in order to reduce exposures of recreational riders who may be more susceptible (e.g., elderly) to the acute cardiovascular health effects of traffic-related air pollution”
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