Researchers have found that breathing the air near busy streets can actually be markedly worse for your health than the air that's even just 200 yards away from that busy street. (Photo by Karen Kelly)
Cyclists take the scenic route along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada... and their lungs thank them. (Photo by Karen Kelly)
A lot of people like to wake up with a morning run.
But where you choose to exercise can have a big impact on
your health. Karen Kelly has the story:
A lot of people like to wake up with a morning run. But where you choose to exercise can have a big impact on your health. Karen Kelly has the story:
In downtown neighborhoods like mine, in Ottawa, Canada, most people walk to work.
And there are two ways to get there – take one of the main drags like Elgin Street…
(sound of traffic)
Or, take the foot path along the Rideau Canal – just two blocks away.
(sound of quieter path)
Now, if you’re in a hurry, you might choose the busier, more direct route. But researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have found if you do that, you’ll be sucking in a lot more pollution.
Brian McCarry is an air quality expert who led the study.
“If you’re back from a major road – typically 200 yards from a major road – then the air pollution is about 10 times less than if you were on that major road.”
Now, it sounds like common sense – you’re near traffic? You’re going to breathe in exhaust.
But McCarry says they were surprised by the difference in pollution between the busy street and a quieter street even one or two blocks away.
“I think what we’re really surprised by is the impacts of cars and trucks along major roads, and how quickly that impact, or the concentrations, disperse. When you are actually driving around seeing this, you go ‘wow, that’s amazing.’”
Now, usually instruments that measure pollution are stuck in one place. What’s different about this study is that they piled their instruments into a van and measured the air quality while they were driving. So they saw the number of particulates surge on the highway – those are tiny particles that come out of our tailpipes – and then quickly drop off when the van goes into a quiet neighborhood.
McCarry says those particulates, along with oxides of nitrogen, are bad for our lungs and our heart, and can be deadly for someone who already has health problems.
“It’s not just the dying, but there are many people who do show up at their doctor’s complaining of not feeling well, of having headaches, shortness of breath, and then there are a number of people who don’t show up at their doctor who just simply don’t go to work because they don’t feel very good during these high ozone events.”
And for those of us driving on highways?
McCarry says the air quality there is horrible. He says keep your car windows closed and use the recirculate button to avoid bringing in more pollution.
The same goes for people who live near these roads: close your windows during rush hour.
I talked to some commuters who live in my neighborhood and asked them if pollution influenced their decisions.
“Even though I live right downtown, what I tend to do is find a route that actually skirts the city completely.”
“If I can avoid main streets, I will go out of my way to do that. It’s not necessarily first and foremost an environment thing but I do appreciate good air quality and I also like the scenery of the canal and the pathways in Ottawa.”
These findings on air pollution have led to some changes.
In Hamilton, Ontario, they passed a no-idling law and plan to build future bike paths away from major roads. Plus, they and Toronto replaced their old street sweepers –
that kicked up toxic dust – with new ones that remove dust completely.
That’s attracted interest from some American cities.
But while there are many changes that cities can make, researcher Brian McCarry says these findings can help all of us make healthier choices.
Officials at a Great Lakes national park have posted notices on the hiking trails warning visitors that cougars have been sighted in the park. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gretchen Millich reports:
Officials at a Great Lakes national park have posted notices on the hiking trails warning visitors
that cougars have been sighted in the park. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gretchen Millich
Over the past year, more than a dozen cougar sightings were reported in or near Sleeping Bear
Dunes National Lakeshore. Senior Ranger Max Holden says after a cougar followed a volunteer
for 20 minutes, officials decided to post warnings.
“It says that cougars have been reported in this area and be cautious. Try not to run. It says do not
run, but I say try not to run. If you got small children, grab hold of them and pick
them up. If you got a dog with you, keep that on a leash. Try to keep cool and if approached,
wave your arms and shout and make yourself look big.”
Holden says it’s unlikely anyone would be attacked. In the past century, in all of North America,
there have been fewer than 100 attacks on humans by cougars.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Gretchen Millich.
It’s hard for non-profits to raise money. And it’s hard for big business to gain public trust and admiration. But when the two are put together – struggling non-profits and wealthy businesses – it appears to be a win, win situation. Or is it? Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King looks at one summertime case where the environment is the loser:
It’s hard for non-profits to raise money. And it’s hard for big business to gain public
trust and admiration. But when the two are put together – struggling non-profits and wealthy businesses – it appears to be a win, win situation. Or is it? Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King looks at one summertime case where the environment is the loser:
How many times have you heard these words: Come on: it’s for a good cause!
You know, like the elementary school teacher who takes a water balloon in
the face for literacy. “That’s the spirit!” we cheer. Because sometimes
you’ve got to go out on a limb to inspire people to action, to get things
But what if someone asked you to smoke cigarettes… to fight world hunger?
Or toss motor oil in a lake… to help cure diabetes? So, there are bad ways
to call attention (and funding) to a cause. Water in face: good. Motor
oil in lake: bad.
Yet more and more these days, our “causes” are tangled up in elaborate
marketing schemes that muddy the moral waters of both charity and activism.
Recently on a 95-degree Ozone Alert Day, my local news reported that area
residents could brave the hot weather (not to mention the respiratory
damage) and test drive a BMW… for a good cause. Without the slightest bit
of irony in her voice, the anchor segued from a story about the dangers of
ozone, to a story about the joys of driving (the very thing that leads to
ozone on a hot day).
With what they call “The Ultimate Drive” campaign, BMW has helped the Susan
G. Komen Foundation raise over three million dollars (a dollar a mile) for
the fight against breast cancer. That’s a lot of carbon monoxide for
Collaboration. Cooperation. Call it what you will, but the you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours-fundraiser is hot. Big corporations draw big money for worthy causes, and worthy causes draw favorable publicity for big corporations. But what if those big names are at cross-purposes with the fundraiser’s end goal? Or even at cross-purposes with other worthy efforts?
If good health is a goal, for instance, it hardly makes good sense to ask
people to drive on ozone alert days – even if the car IS a BMW. The Komen
Foundation also sponsors walks and runs – far more appropriate activities
considering the cause.
Nobody wants to see environmentalists (or asthmatics) duke it out with
breast cancer patients, but it’s time for organizations to fundraise with an
eye toward more than just money. Innovation and creativity is great, but
when the public is asked to participate in an activity, it ought to be a
Now, I’m waiting for someone to ask me to drink margaritas… for world peace,
A group of ten Indian tribal members are running from northern Wisconsin to Washington D-C to show their support for Chippewa hunting and fishing rights. On December 2nd, the U-S Supreme Court will hear a case between the State of Minnesota and the Millelacs Band of Chippewa. A favorable ruling for the state may jeopardize hunting and fishing rights for Native Americans nationwide. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Nick Van Der Puy reports: