Heart Heavy News for Cyclists in Traffic

Take a drive through a city and you'll surely see cyclists weaving in and out of traffic. A study released by Canadian researchers found that the closer a motorist's tailpipe, the more a biker's heart may be at risk. The Allegheny Front's Ashley Murray reports.

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Take a drive through a city and you'll surely see cyclists weaving in and out of traffic. A study released by Canadian researchers found that the closer a motorists' tailpipe, the more their heart may be at risk. The Allegheny Front's Ashley Murray reports.

MURRAY: Respiratory effects may seem like the most obvious risk of air pollution. But researchers following cyclists in Ottawa found that heart rate variability decreased the closer riders peddled to vehicles. Heart rate variability lets us know how the body is doing while regulating the heart. One system speeds the heart up, and another slows it down. A balance is necessary for healthy functioning. Itís not known how the small, harmful particles found in polluted air actually affect heart rate variability. Dr. Scott Weichenthal (Wike-en-tall), epidemiologist for the Air Health Effects Science Division for Health Canada, one of the organizations that authored the study, explains...

WEICHENTHAL: An imbalance in these systems is known to increase the risk of cardiac events. The main finding from the study is that we saw air pollution exposures were associated with decreased heart variability, basically meaning that air pollution was somehow offsetting the balance of how the body regulates the heart.

MURRAY: The study followed forty healthy adult riders. Air pollution samples were taken during the ride while cyclists' health measures were taken before and after. Riders took high and low traffic routes and also rode inside. Weichenthal said the study suggests cyclists avoid high traffic areas and use bike lanes separated from traffic by more than just a white painted line or ride on a road just a block away from a main street. Proximity to traffic is everything, he said. A follow-up study will look at health effects on different types of bicycle paths. For the Allegheny Front, Iím Ashley Murray.