“Air pollution: should it stop you exercising?”

Hmmm… Smog the Dog read this article… “Air pollution: should it stop you exercising?” – The Guardian Online 5th August 2012 – …and this is what he has to say about it…

“Masks are no good for the smallest particles”

Misinformation is as bad as no information. Surely there is a Duty of Care to ensure what you are writing is sound journalism and to ask pertinent questions of experts rather than vox popping, when publishing articles?

Masks are used for protection in industry, they are used by the Fire and Rescue services and everyday workers. They are used by allergy and asthma suffers. In all of these peoples experience…they work. Cyclists masks have gone past their fashionable status and they have been used for 20 years by the cycle commuting fraternity. So why would a journalist sight “no evidence to show that one should wear a mask”?

There is enough circumstantial evidence available to warrant a comment that would allow the end user to make up their own mind. Too much emphasis on making a ‘story’ rather than an honest offering with sound information seems to be the ethos behind this piece.

Cycle Masks incorporate the same filter technology as masks used in Industrial workplace environments for protection against hazardous airborne threats.  These include particles considerably smaller than the size being cited in the article. Should masks be considered of use for the general environment? They use the same materials and have better comfort factor considerations for the end user by using soft materials and exhalation valves. Surely they are capable of filtering out the levels of pollutants in the urban environment if the same materials are used for filtering out much higher concentrations in industrial environment’s?…. is this not sound thinking?

Maybe the mind set of so called experts is, either ‘they do’ or ’they don’t’ work, one or the other. No middle ground. – Unfortunately there are no valid tests to determine how well masks work in a cocktail of various pollutants of differing physical attributes. There are gases like SO2 and NO2, there are vapours like VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) the petrol additives are a section of them to name. Then there is the Particulate Matter, the stuff chucked out by poorly maintained diesel engines and lastly but not least the fashionable pollutant of the month LLO (Low level Ozone). Half of these pollutants, we haven’t a clue about when we read about them and seldom is there wordage to explain.  Just being told ‘London’s air is the worst in the UK’ without offering a solution does nothing for us.

As the theme of the above article is a sports one then an example in the sports arena should be cited for the use of masks.

The link between long distant/marathon runners and breathing problems has been highlighted “ 61% of the runners sampled after the marathon and subsequent blood tests to determine whether immunoglobulin E antibodies were present — the tell tale sign of an allergic reaction — revealed that 35% of the runners were experiencing an allergy.

If  masks don’t work, why does Galen Rupp, Olympic 2012 Silver medalist at 10,000 meters wears a mask. He trains with one and runs with one in polluted cities around the world?

Olympians such as Galen Rupp, who is the American record-holder for the 10,000 metres race and competed in the Beijing Games in 2008, may be one of the many athletes who will have to combat the London smog. Rupp, 26, suffers from asthma and is allergic to 28 of the 30 irritants monitored in an allergen prick test.

“He is so allergic that coach Alberto Salazar scratched him from the 10,000 at the Prefontaine Classic earlier this month when pollen counts spiked,” reported Ken Goe for The Oregonian

The continued use of masks by cyclists on the streets over the past twenty years must point to the notion that they work, at minimum, a placebo effect.  As they do no harm to the end user,…… is it not reasonable to state that masks are useful in filtering out pollution?

by Smog the Dog, Toxin City

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