Air

The road less travelled is better for your health, says study

While there was no significant difference in mean exposure to black carbon between the main road and the less-travelled one, differences between peaks of exposure were remarkable 

 
By Jigyasa Watwani
Last Updated: Wednesday 30 September 2015
London is one of the most polluted cities for black carbon in Europe (Photo: Thinkstock)
London is one of the most polluted cities for black carbon in Europe (Photo: Thinkstock) London is one of the most polluted cities for black carbon in Europe (Photo: Thinkstock)

Walking through quieter routes can help reduce people’s exposure to air pollution, a new study has found.

The study, presented at the European Respiratory Society's International Congress, 2015, was aimed at planning commuting routes in London, which is one of Europe’s most polluted cities for black carbon, a pollutant that is generated by the incomplete combustion of diesel.

Lee Koh from London's Queen Mary University carried a personal black carbon monitor, together with a Global Positioning System (GPS), whilst taking a route from Whitechapel (East) to Moorgate (Central) using main roads, from 4pm to 7pm.

A potential low exposure route was then generated using an urban walking route planner, www.walkit.com.

The study found that there was no significant difference in mean exposure to black carbon between the main road and Walkit routes. However, there was a significant difference between the peaks of exposure to black carbon between the routes.

Walking the busy route six times yielded black carbon readings between 3,339 and 6,995 nanograms per cubic metre every five minutes. By comparison, walking the quieter routes six times yielded the corresponding readings between 2,555 and 5,854 nanograms per cubic metre every five minutes, a public release by the European Lung Foundation said, quoting the study.

“We know that short-term exposure to black carbon is associated with increased hospital admissions due to respiratory symptoms, and that long-term exposure is associated with exacerbations and increased prevalence of asthma. Since London is one of the most polluted cities for black carbon in Europe, ways that people might be able to reduce their own exposure are of interest, and we wanted to see whether walking quieter, side-street routes might help to do this,” said Koh.

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