Is pollution harmful to cyclists ?
According to a new Inserm study published in January 2021, pollution is more harmful to cyclists and pedestrians than to motorists.
A number of studies in recent years have claimed that car drivers are more exposed to air pollution than users of open-air transport, including cyclists.
However, these studies only recorded pollutants captured in a static position at the level of the airways, without analysing the impact of physical effort on their inhalation. However, as soon as a person performs a physical activity, such as cycling or walking, their ventilation increases, which naturally increases the quantity of pollutants inhaled. The faster and harder you breathe, the more fine particles you breathe in. So if the concentration is higher in a car or tram, the amount of pollutants actually breathed in is much higher when cycling or walking.
A team of scientists led by Basile Chaix, director of research at Inserm, within the Pierre Louis Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health (Inserm/Sorbonne University), therefore looked at the impact of these parameters on exposure to soot carbon, an air pollutant produced by road traffic, in 283 participants over 6 days each. By taking into account the minute ventilation of each person in each segment of travel (estimated by means of an accelerometer measuring physical activity), the dose of soot carbon inhaled by the participants during each journey could be quantified.
The idea is not to ban or limit cycling or walking, but to alert once again to the urgent need to decarbonise cities by providing more space for soft mobility and reducing fine particle emissions.
How to protect cyclists from pollution?
In the meantime, wearing an anti-pollution mask like Frogmask is still a useful way to protect your airways. Frogmask’s FFP2 filters filter particles down to 0.4µm and its unique fastening system behind the neck and ears makes it very comfortable to wear even for several hours a day.