Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Celebrate Clean Air Day 2006

Today is Clean Air Day, even if the air isn't co-operating.

I've been trying to keep on top of the air quality where I live and work. As a cyclist, the air quality is often plainly obvious, especially when stuck in traffic behind a car. To confirm my suspicions, I sometimes have a look at the air quality site from the Ministry of the Environment for Ontario. It's sad to see how often the air is at the "moderate" level in a part of the world that has an image of being clean.

From my own observations of the Ministry of the Environment site, the air quality downtown is often better than the measurements made in the suburbs. I can only guess this related to the fresher air from the lake. As a report released yesterday confirmed, the air in the regions surrounding Toronto is often similar or worse than downtown.

To avoid the problem of inhaling what an engine is exhaling, I've been consistently and carefully sliding up the right hand side of a line of cars stopped at a red light. I used to wait behind the vehicle first in line to avoid angering the drivers, but this practice is being thrown out the window. I now pull as far forward as I need to go so I avoid the worst of the fumes.

On smog days, the air is polluted everywhere, not just at the tail end of a car. Feeling desperate for a breath of real air, I've tried putting my t-shirt over my nose and mouth. Not sure if it was useful, I did some research and found that the size of the pores in typical cotton material is 80 microns, while many of the pollutant particles are less than 2.5 microns. The pollutants pass through with ease. So the t-shirt trick only changes the smell, not the number of harmful particles.

I'm left with only one choice. To celebrate Clean Air Day, I've decided that I should give myself some clean air. This weekend, as much as I don't like the idea of wearing one, I'll be stopping by a MEC store to pick up an air filtering mask.

(I see that I'm not the first person to have this thought, as they're already sold out in Toronto!)

Darren J 6/07/2006 12:13:00 p.m.


I was looking at one of those too, but I was concerned about how much it would restrict my breathing - I'll be interested in your experiences with it. The fact that it makes one look a little more scary isn't necessarily a bad thing, either...!
I'll let you know how it goes. I think I'll just wear it when I'm on the busier streets. That also means that's when the most drivers will see the scary cyclist.

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