How should cyclists cope with air pollution?

Posted by tan xiao yan on

According to a research done while cycling hard, one might reach his aerobic peak, breathing in a huge quantity of air, almost about 150L/min. Cycling in an extremely polluted environment increases the percentage intake of air pollutants such as soot, CO, CO2, SOx, NOx, PM10, PM2.5, exhaust gases, ozone gas etc. These pollutants cause irritation in lungs, pleural thickening etc. in short almost deteriorating your lungs health to the standards of a smokers lung’s health. They reduce lung functioning, endurance power. In order to protect your lungs, you might need to pay attention to coping with the air pollution.How should cyclists cope with air pollution?


The inner layer of anti-pollution mask contains activated carbon filter which has high filtration efficiency can easily filter dust and other organic vapors thus protect from various respiratory problems or breathing comes with a soft nose clip and elastic straps so suitable for many face sizes. The exhalation valves are provided to flow out the exhaled air for easy breathing.

Those masks won't filter out gases, such as carbon monoxide, though. You have to buy a mask with oxygen supply to deal with that. There are some masks that filter out vapors -- you have to install a cartridge with chemicals that trap the vapors as you inhale through the mask.

Is there a documented health benefit of wearing a mask? This is probably the hardest question to answer. The short answer is: it appears to lower blood pressure and regulate heart rate for people cycling outdoor.How should cyclists cope with air pollution?

Please do not go for surgical masks which are not designed to protect the wearer. Their main work is to protect other people around you from the particles coming out of your mouth/ nose while coughing/sneezing. Handkerchief and other makeshift products protect you from dust and not particles in smaller size. Thus, they are not very effective in protection against particles of a smaller size which cause more harm.

There are several companies that make pollution masks for cyclists. Those will probably be more comfortable and aerodynamic than the N95 respirators used in hospitals and labs. Regardless, you should look for one with exhalation valves so the moisture from your breath doesn't build up and make your face sweaty.

If you’re cycling in a place that’s relatively low pollution you can do away with the mask, unless you have respiratory issues. If cycling in mid- to high-pollution areas, you would suffer the inconvenience of air filter masks for your health. But precaution is always rewarding, though the mask can be inconvenient, it’d be better for you to wear it.How should cyclists cope with air pollution?

2.Keep cycling.

If you want to reduce the exposure to NOx, cycling on side streets rather than main roads makes a material difference. According to, cyclists are exposed to five times less air pollution than those in cars.

If you are riding for speed then you will increase your breathing rate and the amount of polluted air you breathe. However, in the traffic jam that is common in cities, cars are stuck but the AC inhaling the polluted air from outside without filter helps the polluted material go into the car. The longer drivers are trapped in the traffic, the more polluted air they breathe in. Instead, cyclists can ride through the traffic effortlessly and avoid being exposed to the NOx as long as the drivers. If you are a commuter, you can choose to ride a bike.

Hope this advice could help you.