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Thread: Which air pollutants are the worst?

  1. #1
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    Default Which air pollutants are the worst?

    Like everyone else, I encounter a myriad of air-based pollutants in my daily commutes. All are unpleasant. I can seek to minimize some of them via route selection but if I minimize all of them, I'll never make it where I need to go. Curious if anyone has thoughts or information on the dangers of the below?
    a) Heavy construction dust, such that can be seen with the naked eye
    b) Heavy coal-based dust (particularly along the Met Branch Trail at S St NE)
    c) Trash Fumes (particularly around Ft Totten Transfer Station)
    d) Heavy vehicle fumes

    A, B, and C can be large enough that my mouth becomes gritty with particulates. C & D smell the worst.

  2. #2
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    You could wear this filter($11), which is like HEPA filter, having 99.97% particulate efficiency. I have tried it, and it's no more difficult to breath than cheap filters, but I didn't use it while cycling.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by elbows View Post
    Like everyone else, I encounter a myriad of air-based pollutants in my daily commutes. All are unpleasant. I can seek to minimize some of them via route selection but if I minimize all of them, I'll never make it where I need to go. Curious if anyone has thoughts or information on the dangers of the below?
    a) Heavy construction dust, such that can be seen with the naked eye
    b) Heavy coal-based dust (particularly along the Met Branch Trail at S St NE)
    c) Trash Fumes (particularly around Ft Totten Transfer Station)
    d) Heavy vehicle fumes

    A, B, and C can be large enough that my mouth becomes gritty with particulates. C & D smell the worst.
    Here's a link where you could start - https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=aqibasics.particle There are literally thousands upon thousands of pollution based studies and many on urban residents and I'm sure some that discuss the effects on urban cyclists and runners. Just do some searches that include: PM2.5, PM10, bicycle, health, commute, etc... [edit]unfortunately you'll find like I am, that most of the relevant publications (not opinion pieces) are behind the publisher pay wall, so you'll have to do this research at a university library or somewhere like that.

    As an undergrad in meteorology we did some surface air sampling looking for pm2.5 and pm10. As for which is worst in your list, I think the particulate matter (A, B, D) is WAY up there compared to bad smells (C). Those are probably the least of your worries. I forget how particulate matter interacts with your body, but I recall that due to their size difference it's quite different, with the most severe effects in the lungs.

    Sorry I don't have time to go back and look into all of this at the moment, but that should be a good place to get started. I did all of my graduate work in paleoclimate and promptly forgot my pollution knowledge. And I'm now doing operational sea ice work and my climate knowledge is in a lull.

    Also, here's some info from a NASA mission to research air quality in the US with educational materials simplified so that we can read them as well!
    https://discover-aq.larc.nasa.gov/education.html
    Last edited by creadinger; 11-03-2019 at 11:40 AM.

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