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Biking vs. Driving

Table of Main Air Pollutants

Smog in California
Table of Main Air Pollutants
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The table below gives you more detailed information about air pollutants, their sources and how they effect you.

Pollutant Source Human Health Effects

Particles (API) - Air Particle Index

  • Internal combustion engines (eg, cars and trucks);
  • Industry (eg, factories);
  • Burning wood;
  • Cigarette smoke; and
  • Bushfires.

Long term exposure is linked to:

  • Lung Cancer;
  • Heart Disease;
  • Lung Disease;
  • Asthma Attacks; and
  • Other health problems.

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

  • Motor Vehicles are the biggest contributors;
  • Other combustion processes;

Exposure to high levels of NO2 may lead to:

  • Lung damage; or
  • Respiratory Disease.

It has also been linked to:

  • Increased hospital admissions for asthma and respiratory problems;
  • Increased mortality.

Ozone (O3)

Formed by various complex chemical reactions involving the exposure of the oxides of nitrogen and some hydro-carbons.

Ozone is the main ingredient of photochemical smog in summer and early autumn.

Ozone effects the

  • lining of the lungs;
  • lining of the respiratory tract; and
  • causes eye irritation.

Ozone also damages plants, buildings and other materials.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Motor vehicle exhaust and other source materials such as coal, oil and wood. It is also released from industrial processes and waste incineration

When inhaled Carbon Monoxide enters the bloodstream and disrupts the supply of oxygen to the body’s tissues.

A range of health effects may result depending on the extent of exposure.

Lead (Pb)

Is largely derived from the combustion of lead additives in motor fuels as well as lead smelting.

Lead pollution from vehicle emissions is declining due to the introduction of unleaded fuels and reductions in lead levels in leaded fuel.

Other atmospheric sources of lead include waste incineration and renovation of old houses (from leaded paint).

Lead retards learning in children and the development of their nervous system;

Lead effects almost every organ in the body, whether it is inhaled or ingested. Young children are particularly susceptible;

Hydro-carbons (HC) - chemical compounds composed of Hydrogen and Carbon atoms

Most fuel combustion processes result in the release of hydro carbons to the environment. The largest fuel sources are natural gas and petrol. Note that hydrocarbons can enter the environment both as evaporative emissions from vehicle fuel systems, or in exhaust emissions. They are also a component of the smoke from wood fires.

Exposure can cause headaches or nausea, while some compounds may cause cancer. Some may also damage plants.


"A bicycle ride is a flight from sadness."--James E. Starrs, The Literary Cyclist