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  1. #1
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    pollution masks in cities?

    does anyone ride with a mask to protect from pollution? i've read about it some on various bicycling blogs, but i don't know anyone who actually rides with one here in NYC. saw this article which reminded me of it

    Wearable Sensors Will Measure How Much Air Pollution City Cyclists Inhale ? Next City

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    Senior Member blakcloud's Avatar
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    I was always under the impression that masks do nothing for pollution. The particulates easily pass through the membrane of the mask. Have things changed and masks have gotten better?

    Thanks for posting the article, it sounds like it is going to be a very interesting study.

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    Nope. I would think you would still get the polluted air, but at the cost of being uncomfortable and extra sweaty around your face.
    "All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies."

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    Last edited by erig007; 04-21-15 at 09:48 AM.

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    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snow_echo_NY View Post
    does anyone ride with a mask to protect from pollution? i've read about it some on various bicycling blogs, but i don't know anyone who actually rides with one here in NYC. saw this article which reminded me of it

    Wearable Sensors Will Measure How Much Air Pollution City Cyclists Inhale ? Next City
    Oh good. More ****-stirring to scare people off from bicycling.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    Oh good. More ****-stirring to scare people off from bicycling.
    People can be scared as much as they want they still need to go to work and driving doesn't seems to be any better. Being scared or not doesn't really matter when you have no other viable choice.
    Thinking about that people can wear true respirators (or use efficient air filters) in their car without risking frightening anyone. So much for my point
    Last edited by erig007; 04-21-15 at 10:16 AM.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Particle filter masks for those who must share the roads with diesel busses , like Central London, have been made for a long time..

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    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
    People can be scared as much as they want they still need to go to work and driving doesn't seems to be any better. Being scared or not doesn't really matter when you have no other viable choice.
    People like us aren't scared of biking places and we know that cars are dangerous. It's people who don't currently bike, but now see yet another article about the "dangers of bicycling", and so will continue to drive cars that they feel safer in, that I'm concerned about.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    People like us aren't scared of biking places and we know that cars are dangerous. It's people who don't currently bike, but now see yet another article about the "dangers of bicycling", and so will continue to drive cars that they feel safer in, that I'm concerned about.
    Good point. Hopefully, electric cars are around the corner.

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    the pollution in some parts of NYC is really disgusting. i imagine it will just get worse as the warm weather pours in and once the windy season stops some time in June/July. even tho pedaling against the wind is annoying, it is what keeps cycling awesome here in the spring. i've heard pollution can be an issue for those with asthma and heart problems, but i don't know and don't know anyone who has it and cycles.

    Cycling masks and the shocking results

    How should cyclists protect against pollution? - BBC News

    Paris in Spring Means Carry a Mask Along With Your Umbrella - Bloomberg Business

    Cyclist reveals filthy face masks after commuting in London - London - News - London Evening Standard

    most of these are London stories. that was the first NYC story i saw about it and figure i should ask.

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    Most experienced cyclists take steps to reduce inhalation of the worst pollution. You don't have to stop next to an exhaust pipe. You can take quieter detours on the worst days. You will always get a dose of air pollution but avoiding the peak will lower your average dose a lot.
    I never use a mask but am always mindful of peak-smoke.

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    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    In places like Beijing they obviously have some serious problems and I would be concerned about cycling in places like that. Whether the masks do much good or not, I don't know.

    I'm happy that someone in NYC is doing an actual study. Not sure how much of that would translate to my commute. There are parts of it where I'm exposed to a lot of traffic but over most of it I'm not.

    Are brief periods of exposure something I should be concerned enough to consider wearing a mask? Would a mask actually do any good? Would I be better off lengthening my commute a little to avoid the worst areas or is even a single 30 second close range exposure to school bus exhaust a big problem?
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

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    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    I'll also bring up that while air pollution has real and definite impacts on our health, there can also be negative health effects of living in environments that are too clean. I'm not saying NYC qualifies, just saying that being overly concerned about exposure to impurities isn't good either. That's why I'm happy that someone is taking the initiative to do some tests.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 04-21-15 at 10:38 AM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  14. #14
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Particle filter masks for those who must share the roads with diesel busses , like Central London, have been made for a long time..

    And totally ineffective. An N95 particulate filter will filter out 95% of particulates above 0.3m. The bulk of particulates from diesel exhaust falls into a range from 0.01m to 0.05m. Far below the ability of the filter mask. You could go to a full respirator and get better protection but the smaller the range the mask filters, the harder it is to get air through the filter. Masks...even the N95s...aren't really meant for exercise.


    The problem with both of these articles is that he doesn't give the range of particulate that is being filtered. A screen door can have a 99% filtration rate if the particles being filtered are 20mm wide. If the particles are 2mm wide, the screen door becomes less effective and if the particles are 0.2mm wide, the efficiency of filtration is zero.

    This is the case of the masks in this "test". The bulk of the particulate being filtered is below the range of the filter so the "efficiency" for sub 0.3 particles is effectively zero.

    Even worse, these filters have absolutely no effect on the permanent gases that could actually harm a human. They don't filter CO, NOX, unburned hydrocarbons or even sulfuric acid droplets (which can happen with high sulfur fuels). Thankfully, those gases aren't really much of a problem in the US, Canada or Europe since our vehicles have to have devices to reduce all those materials.
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    Quote Originally Posted by snow_echo_NY View Post
    i've heard pollution can be an issue for those with asthma and heart problems, but i don't know and don't know anyone who has it and cycles.
    It can take time before people show any sign that pollution have on them. For instance, chronic silicosis can occurs 10 or more years after exposure. That's a negative aspect i see from some studies. You can't just study people on a short period when studying pollution impacts on people.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I live 2 blocks from the Columbia and 10 miles from the Sea, A stiff breeze from the northwest clears the air every afternoon. No Problems..

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    yep i agree with what's been said ^^
    thanks for chiming in with smart thoughts. love this forum!

    agree, the test is interesting, i'm curious to what the findings are. and yes i don't know what effect (if any at all) a certain mask might have. and agree the effect of time and pollution on a person is not an easy thing to study - short term effects vs long term.


    mostly, i wonder who his subjects are!

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    The problem with both of these articles is that he doesn't give the range of particulate that is being filtered. A screen door can have a 99% filtration rate if the particles being filtered are 20mm wide. If the particles are 2mm wide, the screen door becomes less effective and if the particles are 0.2mm wide, the efficiency of filtration is zero.

    This is the case of the masks in this "test". The bulk of the particulate being filtered is below the range of the filter so the "efficiency" for sub 0.3 particles is effectively zero.

    Even worse, these filters have absolutely no effect on the permanent gases that could actually harm a human. They don't filter CO, NOX, unburned hydrocarbons or even sulfuric acid droplets (which can happen with high sulfur fuels). Thankfully, those gases aren't really much of a problem in the US, Canada or Europe since our vehicles have to have devices to reduce all those materials.
    Thank you for noticing the limits of these studies.
    Those masks at least deal with particles in the PM2,5 range which aren't harmless.
    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/
    The most health-damaging particles are those with a diameter of 10 microns or less, (≤ PM10), which can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs.

    NO2 is the main source of nitrate aerosols, which form an important fraction of PM2.5 and, in the presence of ultraviolet light, of ozone.
    Last edited by erig007; 04-21-15 at 11:06 AM.

  19. #19
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
    Thank you for noticing the limits of these studies.
    Those masks at least deal with particles in the PM2,5 range which aren't harmless.
    WHO | Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health
    Notice that the fact sheet says particles that are 10 m or less. The bulk of diesel particulates are sub 0.05m which is way less than 10 m. A bandana would be as effective as just about any dust mask.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    Notice that the fact sheet says particles that are 10 m or less. The bulk of diesel particulates are sub 0.05m which is way less than 10 m. A bandana would be as effective as just about any dust mask.
    Agreed. There is nothing much we can do about those sub 0.05m particles other than trying to avoid exposure. At least we can do something about the bigger particles.

    (Or nearly nothing we can do)



    And subway doesn't seems to be any better
    Last edited by erig007; 04-21-15 at 01:32 PM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    I don't worry about pollution because it's everywhere and it's impossible to avoid it. I bet drivers who sit inside their cars in gridlock are exposed to as much pollution as a cyclists, how about air quality inside an office or a factory ??... Just enjoy riding your bike and don't worry about it, being overprotective is unhealthy.
    Last edited by wolfchild; 04-21-15 at 04:47 PM.

  22. #22
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
    Agreed. There is nothing much we can do about those sub 0.05m particles other than trying to avoid exposure. At least we can do something about the bigger particles.
    You seem to be missing my point. Dust masks filter the large bits, which is good, but they don't work on the smaller particles. Weight-wise, most of the particulate is in the 10m range. But with regard to the number of particles, which is the more important number, there are few particles in the 10m range. The vast majority of particulates is in the 0.05m range and lower. The masks filter out the big bits but there aren't very many of them. The masks are ineffective against the smaller particles. The masks are a placebo at best.

    wolfchild has a very valid point.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    You seem to be missing my point. Dust masks filter the large bits, which is good, but they don't work on the smaller particles. Weight-wise, most of the particulate is in the 10m range. But with regard to the number of particles, which is the more important number, there are few particles in the 10m range. The vast majority of particulates is in the 0.05m range and lower. The masks filter out the big bits but there aren't very many of them. The masks are ineffective against the smaller particles. The masks are a placebo at best.

    wolfchild has a very valid point.
    Seems it isn't just a placebo for WHO

    WHO | Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health
    "WHO Air Quality Guidelines" estimate that reducing annual average particulate matter (PM10) concentrations from levels of 70 μg/m3, common in many developing cities, to the WHO guideline level of 20 μg/m3, could reduce air pollution-related deaths by around 15%.
    And since those masks are tested against PM2,5 my guess would be about 30-50% reduction of air pollution-related deaths.
    Last edited by erig007; 04-22-15 at 08:48 AM.

  24. #24
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
    Seems it isn't just a placebo for WHO

    WHO | Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health

    And since those masks are tested against PM2,5 my estimate guess would be about 30-50% of reduction of air-pollution-related death.
    Nothing about masks in that page.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    Nothing about masks in that page.
    Check my other links.

    For instance,

    http://www.myhealthbeijing.com/child...n-mask-for-me/
    At over 97% effectiveness, on a crazy bad day of PM2.5 concentration of 500 ug/m3, the air inside my mask is around 13 ug/m3 — just within reach of my ideal target of 10
    Last edited by erig007; 04-22-15 at 08:57 AM.

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