Why a jog could be as bad as smoking

The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday 8 July 2001

SYDNEY'S air is so polluted that joggers and cyclists are doing as much damage to their lungs as someone who smokes, a leading academic has claimed.

University of Sydney professor of infectious diseases Ray Kearney said pollution monitoring devices were outdated and could not detect the cancer-causing superfine particles produced by new generation car engines.

"The person jogging around or even just going to work in that sort of pollution is almost like a chain smoker," Prof Kearney said.

"The carcinogens going in to the lungs are almost equivalent of what a smoker would be getting."
Inner city residents who believe they are keeping fit may actually be damaging their health.

Dr Kearney said those breathing deeply during physical exercise were, like smokers, depositing "milligrams" of fine particles from by car and bus exhausts deep in to their lungs.

More than 43 per cent of those particles remained permanently attached to the small, sensitive air sacs in people's lungs.

Dr Kearney said the health effects of the air pollution cocktail were particularly harsh on asthmatics and those prone to bronchitis.

He said the problem was being underplayed because the NSW Environment Protection Authority's (EPA) pollution monitoring devices could not detect the most damaging pollutants.

He also said the daily pollution figures for particles provided by the EPA failed to take into account the morning and evening peaks, when particle levels exceeded the health standards.

"During the afternoon and morning peak periods there are high levels of pollution, but the measurement the EPA uses dilutes them all out," he said.

"If a city worker spent an hour getting to work during peak hour and an hour during the afternoon peak period getting home from work in that heavy pollution, five days a week, that is a very significant risk factor on their health."

A report prepared as part of planning for the cross-city tunnel supported Dr Kearney's claim.

Over a five-month period last year, two temporary monitoring stations in the city recorded pollution readings that regularly exceeded official levels.

One 24-hour average reading taken near the old Sydney Gallery showed Sydney's air was twice the accepted pollution level.

A reading taken during a 10-minute period when bushfires were burning in Hornsby was 140 times above official levels.

An EPA spokesman defended the daily 24-hour average pollution readings.

He said they sampled key pollutants at nationally recognised standards.

But Dr Lidia Morawska, associate professor at the School of Physical Sciences at the Queensland University of Technology, said the standards were flawed.

"The current standards do no adequately represent air pollution related to vehicle emissions," she said.

Jane Franks and Carly Westwood, who jog three times a week in the CBD, said they could smell and taste pollution in the air.

Ms Westwood said she had noticed her own breathing become laboured on days of high pollution.
"I don't smoke and never have so where's this coming from?" Ms Westwood said.

"You can notice the difference running across the bridge compared to running in the park and there's a big difference when you go on the coastal run."


Tiny particles are Inhaled which can increase your risk of bronchitis, chest infections, asthma and lung cancer.
Carbon monoxide is forced into the blood, making you feel lethargic.
Irritation of the lungs creates phlegm and narrows the airways, making it much harder for you to breathe.
Alveoli, or air sacs, which absorb oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide, are destroyed.

Jogging in traffic

Tiny particles are inhaled causing bronchitis, lung cancer and aggravating asthma.
Carbon monoxide decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of blood, causing headaches, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms.
Sulphur dioxide and ozone affect breathing, respiratory illness and aggravate existing cardiovascular disease.
Diesel and car exhausts cause inflammation of the airways, coughs and wheezing.