Originally published September 24 2014
Riding in a car can expose you to 15x as much air pollution as walking on the street
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) Next time you feel like hailing a cab, you might want to stop and consider the results of a recent study before deciding whether or not it's worth risking your health.
It turns out that riding through the city in a car exposes you to air pollution levels 15 times greater than walking or riding a bike, according to scientists. Vehicle emissions containing carcinogens manifest themselves in the middle of roadways, which get sucked up by traveling vehicles and are then dispersed to passenger's lungs through car ventilation systems.
Officials with the UK's Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) were given equipment to measure airborne pollution levels and a GPS device to identify their location while analyzing particle concentrations in London.
The highest levels of "black carbon," a type of soot that's formed as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, were found in the city, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
UK study finds riding in car way worse for your health than walking
An overwhelming 50 million particles per breath were inhaled by researchers during their cab rides across London, compared with the approximately 6 to 7 million particles per breath inhaled while walking around Whitehall Road in Westminster, the study found.
Black carbon levels in cabs traveling through the city were 15 times greater than levels recorded outside of City Hall, the scientists' destination. Researchers say the findings are concerning when you consider how many studies have linked air pollution and traffic emissions with lower life expectancies. Air pollution in urban areas can cause countless health complications including heart disease, cancer, chronic pulmonary disease, asthma and upper respiratory tract infections.
Particle inhalation, including black carbon, sulfates, nitrates and metals, has also been known to increase blood sugar levels in pregnant women, making them more susceptible to diabetes. Women who become diabetic while pregnant can experience preterm birth and obesity in both mother and child, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Vehicle emissions consist of tiny bits of carbon 30 times smaller than a human hair
In the London study, scientists found that black carbon concentrations were at the highest in the first two to three feet above the road, dropping off near the curb and pavement.
"When you are in a vehicle, nose to tail with those in front, you are right in the middle of the source of the pollution," said Dr. Ben Barratt, a lecturer and air quality scientist at King's College.
"Vehicles close together suck in each other's emissions," he added. "The air intakes are in the engine compartment close to road level, so they pick up the fumes emitted by the vehicle in front of them. Open windows are another route."
Cyclists and walkers seem to be less affected, because their continuous movement allows them to breathe fresh, circulated air.
Part of the study's intent was to investigate why officials promoted diesel engines as being "environmentally friendly," when in reality they have adverse effects on both people and the environment.
Officials question the breaching of EU air quality standards
London Mayor Boris Johnson is expected to appear before the EAC to announce a new initiative called "Breathe Better Together," a project that would ask commuters to work from home or use alternative transportation such as bikes, trains and buses more often than cars and taxis.
Living the city life often comes at a price. London, for example, loses almost 3,500 people a year to air pollution, making the destination hotspot the worst city in the country for air quality.
The air pollution that causes the greatest complications is composed of tiny particulate matter that's invisible to the naked eye, triggering life-threatening conditions even in healthy people.
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