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Taxi drivers most susceptible to black carbon

ANI | Updated: Sep 29, 2019 16:53 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Sept 29 (ANI): The carbon levels on Earth are on a continuous rise and the people who are the most susceptible to its ill effects are taxi drivers.
Yes, a new study has found that professional drivers working in congested cities are exposed to black carbon levels which on average is third higher than what would be experienced at a busy roadside.
Moreover, it also found that taxi drivers experience the highest exposures to black carbon compared to couriers, truck drivers, waste removal and emergency service workers.
The findings of this study were presented in the ERS International Congress 2019.
Along with identifying the problems, this study also suggested that professional drivers can take simple steps to protect themselves from pollution, such as driving with their windows closed.
Study presenter, Mr Shanon Lim, research assistant and PhD candidate at King's College London said, "We believe there are around a million people working in jobs like these in the UK alone, so this is a widespread and under-appreciated issue."
To study the effects, researchers recruited 140 professional drivers from a range of occupations working in central London. They were asked to carry black carbon monitors, linked with GPS trackers, for a period of 96 hours.
The monitors measured exposure levels once every minute. Drivers' vehicle type was also asked including their working hours and whether they drive with windows or air vents open.
According to the results, on average, professional drivers were exposed to 4.1 micrograms of black carbon per cubic metre of air (mg/m3) while driving, which was around four times higher than their exposure at home (1.1 mg/m3).
Researchers say the levels recorded at home are similar to levels experienced by office workers at their desks. Professional drivers also experienced extremely high spikes in exposure to black carbon, often exceeding 100 mg/m3 and lasting as long as half an hour.
During the same period of time, researchers found that pollution levels at a busy London roadside (Marylebone Road) were 3.1 mg/m3 on average and, away from the roadside, the average level in London was 0.9 mg/m3.
Taxi drivers had the highest levels of exposure on average (6.5mg/m3). Emergency services workers had the lowest levels of exposure on average (2.8 mg/m3).
"Our study suggests that professional drivers are exposed to high levels of traffic pollution while at work. Because these levels are higher than those we find at the roadside, this suggests that being inside a vehicle doesn't necessarily offer any protection, in fact the opposite may be true: that air pollution can get trapped inside the vehicle for extended periods of time," said Mr Lim.
The research also showed that keeping windows closed while working halved the levels of black carbon for professional drivers. The type of vehicle and the choice of route could also lower exposure.
They also plan to investigate possible strategies for protecting drivers, such as the use of air filters.
"This is vital to help employers, occupational safety and health professionals and individual workers reduce exposure and minimise work-related health risks," suggested Mr Lim.
"In the longer term, we need to protect workers from traffic pollution by looking for ways to keep the air inside vehicles cleaner but also by redesigning our cities to create more efficient ways to move people and goods around and increasing our use of greener travel solutions, such as electric vehicles," said Barbara Hoffman, Chair of European Respiratory Society's Environment and Health Committee and Prof of Environmental Epidemiology, University of Dusseldorf. (ANI)