Take the road less traveled to avoid pollution exposure

Washington: You may want to take quieter routes to work as a new study suggests that doing so can help you avoid peaks in air pollution.

Commuting to work by walking on quieter side streets rather than main roads can help people avoid exposure to peaks in harmful air pollution, the new research found.

Black carbon is one of the components of air pollution, and comes from incomplete combustion by diesel vehicles. It is known to be associated with a range of respiratory diseases, such as asthma, as well as with cardiovascular diseases.

Lee Koh of Blizard Institute at Queen Mary University of London (London, UK), used a hand-held monitor to measure levels of black carbon particulate matter while walking between Whitechapel in the east of London to Moorgate, which is nearer to central London, between 16.00-19.00hr using main roads. She then used an urban walking route planner to plan a quieter route that might, potentially, have lower levels of air pollution.

Mrs Koh noted that researchers 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.

She added that 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. “We found in this small study that people could avoid peaks in black carbon if they choose to walk a quieter route.”

Koh concluded that the study suggests that, in London, it is possible to reduce exposure to peaks of black carbon particles (mainly from diesel soot) by choosing to walk a less polluted route. Government action will be required to further improve the general air quality around us.

The study is presented at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress, 2015. (ANI)