As we all become increasingly aware of our carbon footprints and the importance of recycling, ozone pollution is still a reality and one which we have to factor in when going for a ride.
While pollution is of course unavoidable, studies have shown that when reaching 100 ppb (parts per billion), the ozone causes serious damage to the lung tissue and red blood cells when inhaled. To put this into perspective, the level of ozone in Central London ranges from 99-170 ppb and 119-137 in Washington, D.C centre at midday.
What does that mean for us? Well cyclists are at a great risk when riding for an hour or more as ozone levels tend to hit over 100 ppb in that timeframe. This is especially true during training and competition as respiration rate increases threefold and the ozone is taken more deeply into the lungs.
Ozone damage to lung tissue is generally prolonged and can last up to a few weeks. The epithelial lining of the lungs will become swollen and dead cells will be discarded. Excessive ozone exposure can be linked to the development of asthma and bronchitis in otherwise healthy adults.
Although ozone exposure is unavoidable, it is recommended that cyclists try and minimise their exposure by planning ahead. Ozone levels are at their most tolerable in the morning before 13:00 and in the evening after 19:00.