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Thread: Black Lung

  1. #1
    hipster traffic dodger ChiapasFixed's Avatar
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    Black Lung

    Singapore is not by any means one of the most polluted cities in the world.
    Nevertheless, when my friend who lives there went in for a checkup last week, and had his lungs x-rayed, the doctor asked him how long he had been smoking.
    He said he has never smoked.
    The doc then asked him whether he rides a bike alot, he said yes, every day, everywhere he goes.
    Doc said "aha! Thats it!"
    With pollution levels rising all over the world, and it getting harder and harder to find a smog-free place to live, this is very worrying news for me. I have lived and ridden my bike daily in Mexico City, LA, NY, London, Tokyo, and similar polluted areas of the world.
    I am lucky to be in Darwin, Australia now, where air quality is quite good, but am nonetheless very concerned about this issue.
    Does anybody else have experience with lung problems from riding a bike daily in a polluted city?
    Isn't it about time something was done about this??
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    Senior Member David13's Avatar
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    Just anecdotal. It's always said that living in Los Angeles is like smoking a pack a day. I suppose when you add the strenuous exercise on a bike and the extra respiration, you double it.
    However, Darwin or other such areas might not prove much of a solution. There may be particulate pollution in some of those areas, red dust, or desert areas sand.
    I think there was some study or concern here at Owens Lake as the dust storms there were considered the worst air in the state.
    dc

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    And all cyclist are impotent.

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    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Riding regularly in smog and exhaust fumes contributed to my development of asthma.

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    Senior Member mkael's Avatar
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    How long has your friend lived and cycled in Singapore or an equally polluted area? It's real bad the doctor mentioned bikes right after smoking. In the Asia section of bf forums people were complaining about this issue a lot. This whole issue is disgusting.

    I haven't really lived in the worst smog affected areas of the world but on the rare few real bad days I can really feel it in my heart and lungs. I take different routes to avoid that.

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    Senior Member bhop's Avatar
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    When I get home from work and pick my nose, sometimes my boogers are black.

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    I've seen other reports that show that the air inside of cars is even more poluted that outside. The only thing that would help would be if you car had a particulate filter for the cabin (most luxury cars now have that). I guess if you have to commute in those conditions, then wearing a descent quality mask would be almost essential. It is truely sad that polution is so bad in many places. Clearly cycling can be a part of that solution. China has shown that a city like Beijing filled with millions of cyclist had remarkably little polition problems. Then they started to promote cars and now the polution problems are off the scale... and they call that progress

    Happy riding (doing my little bit to avoid adding to the problem by commuting on a bike)
    André

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    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David13 View Post
    It's always said that living in Los Angeles is like smoking a pack a day.
    Back in the late 60's-early 70's, it must've been like smoking five packs a day. I didn't really know what LA pollution looked like until I saw photographs from that era. Skyline? Where, behind that smog cloud?

    Not that cars are part of the solution anyway, but modern engines are ridiculously cleaner than those of forty years ago. There's a Bentley motor whose basic design is fifty years old, but, in its current state, produces more power with significantly better fuel economy and 99% less emissions; they even say it can idle on just the unburnt gases expelled from the exhaust of the first version. It's also said that the current Porsche 911 Turbo -- not a miserly economy car, of course -- expels exhaust that's actually cleaner than the air in most polluted cities.

    Load up the populace on smokey old scooters and substandard larger vehicles, though, and it can get pretty nasty.

  9. #9
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    I grew up in west Los Angeles in the 1950s and was bussed into the ritzy neighborhood of Bel Air to attend elementary school. The smog (mostly nitrogen dioxide and ozone, plus a few sulfuric and soot particulates for good measure) stung our eyes and throats to the extent that we often took turns closing our eyes and leading each other around the playground. Three-way catalytic converters, oxygen sensors, and computerized fuel injection and engine management systems have been immensely successful, and the air quality in Los Angeles has improved dramatically despite a huge multiplication in the annual number of vehicle miles traveled.

    I am surprised that Singapore, with its squeaky-clean "no litter" image, has such a bad air pollution problem, but this is typical of many areas where diesel and two-stroke engines dominate. A two-stroke scooter, particularly if not well-maintained, emits far more particulate soot and far more partly-burned hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, and carbon monoxide than a modern gasoline-powered car with full emission control kit. Half of all cars in Europe reportedly as diesel-powered, and low-emission diesel technology is only now starting to become prevalent.

    Those paper cabin air filters do stop the larger particulates -- VW/Audi recommends changing them biennially, and mine get pretty filthy between changes, even though I live near the coast and drive much less than average. However, I suspect lung-damaging nanoparticulates go right through the paper.

    The best advice is probably to choose your routes and times of travel to minimize exposure and to avoid outdoor exercise on the worst parts of the worst days. In Los Angeles I always did my recreational cycling right after sunrise on Saturday and Sunday mornings, to avoid Smog, Heat, and Intolerable Traffic. (I think there's an acronym in there ... ).
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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    Considering how many people smoke in asian countries, why did the doctor not blame second hand smoke?

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    Senior Member mkael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post

    A two-stroke scooter, particularly if not well-maintained, emits far more particulate soot and far more partly-burned hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, and carbon monoxide than a modern gasoline-powered car with full emission control kit. Half of all cars in Europe reportedly as diesel-powered, and low-emission diesel technology is only now starting to become prevalent.
    I think motors in Europe are very well adjusted on average. The rare exceptions I have seen would be some people using alternative fuels in rural areas resulting in horrid smoke. Even if the diesel exhaust was the nastiest stuff they are nice compared to old misadjusted engines running on fuel from who knows where.

    The worst I have seen would be Athens. Dense and mountains nearby. They had traffic problems out of control cars standing in gridlock. Lots of scooters (and motorcycles which more than the average get ridden in a Joeybikesque way). Additionally everyone seems to smoke everywhere. They have improved a lot in the last few years. These factors add up which just makes riding bikes passive smoking.

  12. #12
    Primate Metzinger's Avatar
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    ^Joeybikesesque! Nice one!
    Here in Holland it seems that, yeah, it's the scooters, mopeds, and weird motor assisted Omafiets type things that stink the place up the most.

    Black lung! Egads!
    Sure makes me glad I'm no longer in Toronto. The smog midsummer sometimes so bad there that it felt like a weight on my chest.

    "Isn't it about time something was done about this??", Chiapas asks. A couple of years ago, the province of Ontario discussed the idea of a lawsuit against the perceived major polluters to the south in the Ohio Valley. Power generators. All this while buying electricity at peak times from south of the border in order to run their air conditioners flat out, and driving around in Porsche Cayennes.

    The air off the North Sea is a welcome change from that stink.

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    Hmm, worrying indeed. In fact the estimates of respiratory disease from air pollution dwarf the supposed deaths from secondhand smoke. However, I don't think riding a bike is inherently worse than driving, in this respect. Leaving aside the bit where it is obviously part of the solution, I've read a doctors report that cyclists are exposed to a lot less than the motorists. The place where the worst emmissions concentrate is in the line of traffic, pulled along and restrained by the draft, and as most cyclists often ride just to the side of it, they are already exposed to a lot less than those in the cars. Then the pollutants, including brake dust, tend to drift along at the level of the exhausts, which is also the level at which most cars take in air for ventilation. Cyclists sit a lot higher, even higher than car windows. So the motorists are the ones choking in their own smog, more than the riders. Coupled with the massive benefits to health of not being sedentary, or having to put up with the frustration and boredom of driving a car, he concluded that the cyclists were at far less risk.

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    One speed: FAST ! fordfasterr's Avatar
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    now your friend must wear a breathing mask while riding...
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    One factor is in this subject of black lung is diesel exhaust. When you see a truck spewing black smoke into the air you are looking at oily carbon particles from the incomplete combustion of the fuel.

    The contingency fee lawyers are starting to get into this because of the health problems of people who work on diesel powdered trucks. Normally black lung disease is associated with coal miners. But now they are seeing something similar in those who work around diesel powdered vehicles.

    The black soot produced by these engines is less than a micron in size. Carried for fairly long distances with wind.

    They used to make a black carbon pigment via the incomplete combustion of various types of oil. Known as oil black and saw extensive use in tire production and in various plastics. More recently these oil blacks came under suspicion as being carcinogenic.

    While poorly maintained gasoline fueled motors will spit out carbon particles the largest source are diesel engines. In countries where small combustion engines are run on mixtures of gasoline and lubricating oil these engines produce a good bit of oily carbon particles.

    While gasoline powdered vehicles have been required to use pollution control devices the trucking industry has escaped most attempts to clean up their exhaust emissions.

  16. #16
    Senior Member David13's Avatar
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    Barracks & John E I remember the old Los Angeles air. And the burning eyes. So it's definitely cleaner with the pollution devices on cars. CARB & AQMD etc has helped a lot, though there is still far more to do.
    dc

  17. #17
    hipster traffic dodger ChiapasFixed's Avatar
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    I obviously agree riding a bike is part of the solution, but I cant get over the injustice of cyclists getting sick from the very air pollution they are helping to curb!
    No matter how you cut it, cyclists inhale more particles than motorists because we are breathing alot harder.
    The irony of this is not funny to me at all. I believe cyclists should be entitled to "clean corridors" for commuting far from cars, trucks and factories, and surrounded by trees!
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    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Speaking of "injustice" as ChiapasFixed put it --

    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    A two-stroke scooter, particularly if not well-maintained, emits far more particulate soot and far more partly-burned hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, and carbon monoxide than a modern gasoline-powered car with full emission control kit.
    I know that not all scooter owners are trying to "save the environment", but I wonder how many of those who are riding for that reason are aware of how much of a stink they make.

    Now that I'm writing this, I'll bet that some are aware, and they're trying to curb their own emissions. At least that's what the optimist in me says.

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    Senior Member David13's Avatar
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    I thought 2 stroke anything was banned in California long ago. 4 stroke with pollution devices can run very clean. But, of course, only if running properly.
    dc

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    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David13 View Post
    I thought 2 stroke anything was banned in California long ago. 4 stroke with pollution devices can run very clean. But, of course, only if running properly.
    dc
    Right -- but, apparently, the standards are more slack, and they usually don't even get tested.

    Third hit on Google:
    http://www.idahostatesman.com/newsup...ry/463709.html

    Motorcycles and scooters that meet EPA emission standards are still more polluting than cars because the federal emission standards are more lenient for motorcycles.

    The maximum emission standard for motorcycle hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide is 2.25 grams per mile, compared with .098 for cars, meaning a motorcycle can emit 23 times more ozone-forming pollutants as a car does and still meet EPA standards. The carbon monoxide standard for motorcycles is about six times higher than a car's standard.
    Although I've never seen a catalytic convertor on a motorcycle or scooter, it's probably only because I haven't looked closely enough -- there are some models out there so equipped (even 2-stroke versions).

    Honda's spec sheet for their Silver Wing scooter (their top-line model) simply says, under Emissions, "Meets current California Air Resources Board (CARB) and EPA standards." However, I'll bet that it's not cleaner-running than any of their cars.

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    Senior Member David13's Avatar
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    Silver Wing, Ruckus and Metro are all 4 stroke. That means they are not oil burners. 2 stroke is an oil burner.
    dc

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    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    And the Silver Wing, Ruckus, and Metro all can legally emit 23 times as much NOx pollutant as a passenger car can.

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    Senior Member David13's Avatar
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    And it would be about 200 times worse if they were 2 stroke.
    Now, California is set to begin motorcycle testing for emissions in 2010 or 2012. And they will probably also be reducing the allowable emissions for motorcycles.
    But what about trucks. What percent of vehicles on the road is motorcycle (of any and all make and model) and what percent is truck, of all variety. Just looking at those numbers will tell you the big problem to face next is trucks.
    And when motorcycles have to pollute less, Honda will comply and Harley will sue to prevent the new regulations just like GM does every year.
    Sort of the 'mer'can ethos.
    dc

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    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Trucks are a problem, but everyone knows it, too. The difference is that not many people think about scooters as pollution-heavy vehicles.

    That Idaho Statesman article also mentions a 2-stroke scooter with a catalytic convertor.

    Consumers need to read the labels, Swanton said. The question is more complex than opting for a four-stroke engine rather than a two-stroke, which usually are more polluting, Swanton said. Some two-strokes can be cleaner than some four-strokes, depending on what emission-control devices the manufacturer installs - but each new measure means added cost.

    For example, Stella makes a two-stroke engine scooter with a catalytic converter, so it will burn cleaner than some four-stroke engines, Naven said.
    Back to trucks:

    Light-duty trucks (not including tractor-trailers, dump trucks, etc) and passenger car emissions regulations:
    http://www.epa.gov/oms/cert/veh-cert/b00001f.pdf

    All tiers are at a cleaner standard than the scooter standard.

    One question, though, is whether scooters are used as often, and over similar distances, as cars. Even the guys on Top Gear took beat-to-hell used scooters a thousand miles up Vietnam, but not many people around here are going to tackle the same distances.

  25. #25
    hipster traffic dodger ChiapasFixed's Avatar
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    what about dedicated cycle only roads, far from internal combustion traffic, lined with trees and following the river?
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