London: one of the most polluted cities in Europe?

That’s what several studies in air pollution say. Spend a few hours commuting in rush hour and you’ll soon see why. While London’s air might not be as bad as other cities in China and India, particulates and other toxic gasses spewing out of the thousands of busses, taxis, vans and cars still reach levels that can have a detriment to human health.

Guess who breathes in most of this toxic soup? Yep, cyclists. Once you’ve factored in your route along busy stretches of road, increased rates of breathing (aerobic exertion), and close proximity to the source of the fumes – it gets very concerning indeed. A 2010 Belgian study, published in Atmospheric Environment, found that healthy cyclists inhaled between 400 and 900 percent more particulate matter than motorists on the same route!

Have a look at the following news stories for an insight:

Guardian: Air pollution kills 2 million people a year

BBC: Up to 9% of deaths in London caused by air pollution

Guardian: Air pollution linked to increased risk of cancer and heart failure

Standard: Pollution kills 4,200 people in London

Guardian: Should air pollution stop you exercising?

BikeRadar: Study to measure cyclists exposure to air pollution – If you’re going to read just one, read this one.

So, there is lots of stuff in the news about it. People are aware that they’re constantly breathing in these gasses and ‘dust’, blow your nose after a few hours riding through the center and you’ll see all that black stuff. Some of that goes straight down into your lungs too. Using pollution masks may stop a lot of it, and Respro are pretty much the only company providing these.

BBC: Should cyclists protect themselves against pollution?

There is great resource available to check air pollution in your area at londonair.org.uk and they also have a great app which is very handy.

The people most at risk to air pollution is the elderly, people with heart or respiratory conditions or sufferers of asthma. However, if you regularly commute in the city, it’s definitely worth seriously thinking about.

Respro make pollution masks, you can check out our review of the Cinqro mask here