Running air

The Quary Mark, about 1.5 miles along the road
The Quary Mark

In a New York Times article, Gretchen Reynolds discussed concerns about inhaling poluted air while running, skating, or cycling. As I’m sure many other runners have, I’ve wondered about this problem off and on for years. It’s my good fortune to have the pastoral setting shown in this photo in which to run.

Of course, like others, I personalize these issues. Had I put on the miles I’ve run in a poluted city rather than in my neighborhood, I have no idea what would have happened to my lungs. But, that’s not an issue. I can report—case study data—that I’m reluctant to run during higher polution times when I’m in other areas; a good part of my usual routine (I run during the early morning) is that it puts me on the roads when levels of polution and traffic are lower.

This problem would be greatly mitigated, I suspect, if more people were aware of the yuckiness of running near an exhausting (teehee) car. In my neighborhood, I rarely see more than 2 cars per mile of running. When one passes me, I can clearly smell it. In fact, I have often modified my breathing so that I take less air when the exhaust is most obvious.

Ms. Reynolds has a nifty ending to her article. I don’t think this constitutes a spoiler and one should read her entire report, but here’s her tag:

“The bottom line is that running and cycling are healthy and, over all, good for the heart,” Dr. Newby said. With proper care, he said, outdoor exercise does not have to be harmful — and, done en masse, could even ease pollution.

“I ride my bike back and forth to work every day,” he said. “If everyone else did that, too, we wouldn’t be having this problem at all, would we?”

Follow this link to Ms. Reynolds article. The American Lung Association has lists of the best and worst US cities for air polution (check the ranking for “Track City!”). The World Bank has a page about air polution in cities of the world that includes a link to a dataset (particulate matter concentrations weighted by urban population) that one can download. A group of medical folks at Edinburgh has a discussion of polution in some European cities. On to Beijing.

Gotta get out on the road.

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Filed under Neighborhood, Running

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