How healthy is the Vuelta? Riders breathe less polluted air during Stage 4 – Cycling

As a result of La Vuelta, the Tour of Spain that begins today in Utrecht, the Netherlands, scientists have mapped the cycle’s air quality. It turns out that riders don’t breathe the same air everywhere.

At the start of La Vuelta in their city, two researchers from the University of Utrecht wanted to know how clean the air a peloton would breathe during the different stages.

The results show that the air is the most polluted at the beginning (in Utrecht) and the end (in Madrid). In addition, they concluded that air quality in many areas does not comply with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. However, the health benefits of cycling generally outweigh the risks, they say.

Cities are subject to WHO guidelines

How clean would the air you breathe if you cycled the same way as cyclists in La Vuelta on a normal day? Using satellite imagery, traffic information, and air quality data on nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and ozone, researchers Roel Vermeulen and Jules Kerckhoffs report roadmap brochure. The brochure shows the air quality for each stage of La Vuelta

The conclusion is clear: the stages in the Netherlands and from Spain’s La Rosas to Madrid are the most polluted roads. Particularly in the urban areas visited by Vuelta, air quality does not meet WHO and sometimes more permissive EU guidelines (40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic meter for Belgium and the Netherlands, ed.). However, there are a few places where this European standard is bypassed. Despite this, air quality causes health damage in many places.

In the Netherlands, researchers estimate that nearly 5,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor air quality. Worldwide, this estimate is about 7 million.

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nitrogen dioxide

The roadmaps developed by the Utrecht researchers use the WHO’s recommended value for nitrogen dioxide per year: ten micrograms per cubic metre. The researchers explain that if you’re going to spin your way to work or school every day, this is a critical value. If you rotate the track only once, a 24-hour guideline of 25 micrograms per cubic meter is more appropriate. According to the World Health Organization, exceeding these guidelines means that there is harm to your health. Milder EU guidelines are also shown in the phase brochure.

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“A lot has been done in recent years to improve air quality, but we see that there are still many places where the air is unhealthy,” says Vermeulen, who studies how environmental factors affect our health. Thus, improving air quality still requires attention.

Just follow the cars on the road

For cyclists in the Vuelta, the researchers say, their ride will not directly lead to health damage. “After all, they perform the stage once and not every day.” Moreover, on La Vuelta day, there is no regular traffic on the road (except for the support cars). This means that the air quality will be better during the phase, as was also demonstrated earlier during Grand Departure At the Tour de France, they say.

At the Breda stage, the nitrogen dioxide concentration during part of the trip (about 40 km) appears to be above WHO guidelines for 24-hour nitrogen dioxide, and even slightly above the EU limit value. The other stages in the Netherlands are also on average much more polluting than the stages in Spain, both for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Introduction in Utrecht has an average concentration of 32 micrograms per cubic meter.

The average concentration of nitrogen dioxide for the last stage (Las Rosas – Madrid) exceeds the EU maximum allowed of 40 μg of nitrogen dioxide per cubic meter over a distance of 35 km. This is because a large part of the theater will be in the center of Madrid.

During stage 4, from Vitoria-Gasteiz to LaGuardia in Spain, the nitrogen dioxide concentration is below the WHO guideline value for almost the entire journey (142.5 km). The average during this trip is 6.5 micrograms per cubic meter. Interestingly, the phase is not the cleanest for ozone. Ozone is formed by the reactions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in warm, sunny weather. Since the temperature is higher in Spain, you see higher ozone concentrations than in the Netherlands, the researchers say.

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At the start of La Vuelta in their city, two researchers from the University of Utrecht wanted to know how clean the air a peloton would breathe during the different stages. The results show that the air is the most polluted at the beginning (in Utrecht) and the end (in Madrid). In addition, they concluded that air quality in many areas does not comply with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. However, the health benefits of cycling generally outweigh the risks, they say, how clean is the air you breathe if you cycle the same route as cyclists in La Vuelta on a typical day? Researchers Roel Vermeulen and Jules Kerckhoffs have prepared a roadmap brochure based on satellite imagery, traffic information and air quality data on nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and ozone. The brochure shows the air quality for each stage of La Vuelta, and the conclusion is clear: the stages in the Netherlands and from La Rozas in Spain to Madrid are the most polluted roads. Particularly in the urban areas visited by Vuelta, air quality does not meet WHO and sometimes more permissive EU guidelines (40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic meter for Belgium and the Netherlands, ed.). However, there are a few places where this European standard is bypassed. Despite this, air quality causes health damage in many places. In the Netherlands, researchers estimate that nearly 5,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor air quality. Worldwide, this estimate is about 7 million. The roadmaps developed by Utrecht researchers use the value recommended by the World Health Organization for nitrogen dioxide per year: that is, ten micrograms per cubic meter. The researchers explain that if you’re going to spin your way to work or school every day, this is a critical value. If you rotate the track only once, a 24-hour guideline of 25 micrograms per cubic meter is more appropriate. According to the World Health Organization, exceeding these guidelines means that there is harm to your health. Milder EU guidelines are also shown in the phase brochure. “A lot has been done in recent years to improve air quality, but we see that there are still many places where the air is unhealthy,” says Vermeulen, who studies how the environment influences our health and affects our health. Thus, improving air quality still requires attention. For cyclists in the Vuelta, the researchers say, their ride will not directly lead to health damage. “After all, they perform the stage once and not every day.” Moreover, on La Vuelta day, there is no regular traffic on the road (except for the support cars). This means that the air quality will be better during the stage, as was previously demonstrated during the Grand Départ of Tour de France, they say. In the Breda stage, the concentration of nitrogen dioxide during part of the stage (about 40 km) appears to exceed the WHO’s 24-hour nitrogen dioxide guidelines, even slightly above the EU limit value. The other stages in the Netherlands are also on average much more polluting than the stages in Spain, both for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Introduction in Utrecht has an average concentration of 32 micrograms per cubic meter. The average concentration of nitrogen dioxide for the last stage (Las Rosas – Madrid) exceeds the EU maximum allowed of 40 μg of nitrogen dioxide per cubic meter over a distance of 35 km. This is because a large part of the stage will be paid in central Madrid. During stage 4, from Vitoria-Gasteiz to LaGuardia in Spain, the nitrogen dioxide concentration is below the WHO guideline value for almost the entire stage (142.5 km). The average during this trip is 6.5 micrograms per cubic meter. Interestingly, the phase is not the cleanest for ozone. Ozone is formed by the reactions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in warm, sunny weather. Since the temperature is higher in Spain, you see higher ozone concentrations than in the Netherlands, the researchers say.

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Megan Vasquez

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