Running on side of busy road....

my brother and i are having a debate. i think it would be a terrible health risk to run every day of your life alongside a busy road, inhaling MASSIVE amounts of exhaust and carbon monoxide. my bro says it doesn’t matter that much and that your body will counteract the free radicals with plenty of antioxidants, since running is healthy in itself. he also says that wind disperses exhaust a lot too, which is true.

for those who are educated on this type of thing, how unhealthy is this? i think if you did this everyday of your life, you would probably get cancer from it. but that’s just my WAG.

When I was a kid (gah, how depressing), I vividly remember that the only way out of PE in Los Angeles was it being a Smog Day, when the air was too polluted for the school to let us breathe heavily outside, resulting in either not doing anything or playing a game inside.

Also, one method of measuring pollution generation from highways is to set up a meter beside a freeway and leave it there.

So based on that personal experience, I wouldn’t be terribly keen on the idea - but you have to keep in mind that a lot of air pollution comes from industry and other sources, not just from vehicles. I still wouldn’t do it, but I’d venture to WAG that you have more daily chance of getting hit by a car as by getting cancer.

Personally, I think the runner is at greater risk of being hit by a car with a drunk or inattentive driver, and since even a glancing blow could involve a broken leg or hip, I’d advise him to find another route.

the nature of the question is biological health risks, not how dangerous it is… thanks!

Your brother has no idea what he’s talking about. The danger from carbon monoxide is not some nebulous “free radical” crap (as if he even knows what it means). Carbon monoxide is a POISON; it binds hemoglobin, forming carboxyhemoglobin, and is only slowly reversible. According to this site, one hour’s exposure at 200ppm will be barely perceptible; illness will result around 700pm, and death will result at 1500ppm; others give even lower thresholds. Chronic low-level exposure can cause heart, nerve, and brain damage.

Car exhaust also contains nitrogen oxides and particulate matter that will screw you up in any number of ways, and humans have NOT evolved mechanisms for dealing with them in high concentrations. The more complex fuel components have carcinogenic combustion products.

Your brother may be right about the wind (he’d better hope so), but I’ve seen car exhaust hang in the air on a windless day – best to exercise indoors on those days.

Erm, we were quantifying the risk by comparing it to a more known risk, like saying that flying in a commercial jet is safer than driving to the airport.

I think all of us agreed that it is a Bad Thing ™. God bless Smog Days.

naw, we both know about that. he was talking about inhaling the particulate matter part of the issue, not the gas issue, when talking about free radicals.

free radicals are positively charged particles stripping off electrons from your bodys’ cells, in turn creating more free radicals. this creates DNA problems, aging and lung damage, to name a few. inhaling exhaust could do this. is this correct?

when thinking about this, i wasn’t so concerned with the carbon as with the free radicals and lung damage and so on.