To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Friday, February 28, 2014

How city dwellers can stay healthy using public transportation


By Luisa Dillner, February 27, 2014

 Commuters arrive to Grand Central station from a Metro North train on Jan. 22, 2014 in New York City.
 Commuters arrive to Grand Central station from a Metro North train on Jan. 22, 2014 in New York City.

The late-night shops, the diverse population, the variety of restaurants, culture and clubs – what's not to love about living in a city? Well, how about the air pollution, germ-ridden public transport and stress?

If cities pose a health risk, how can you fight back? What can you do to avoid filling your lungs with small pollutant particlesthat increase your risk of heart disease, asthma, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer? Can you travel by bus, underground system or train without catching a nasty virus?

Colds and flu

Just getting on public transport in a city at rush hour means you are likely to be exposed to somebody else's virus. A study in Nottingham funded by the Health Protection Agency found that people were six times more likely to end up at the doctor with a cold or flu if they had recently used a bus or tram.

But anywhere with people in a confined area – offices, concert venues, lifts – poses a risk. Common places to pick up viruses are on a handrail, door handle or light switch. Of course, you can't avoid touching everything – but try not to touch your eyes or nose, because that's how viruses infect you.

Wearing gloves can reduce the risk, as can frequent and thorough handwashing with soapy water, or the use of antiseptic hand washes. But facemasks aren't the solution. A close-fitting, N2-type facemask may reduce airborne viral infections, but you'd have to wear them a lot and it's probably not worth the hassle. But there can be cultural considerations – in many Asian countries, especially Japan, wearing a mask on public transport is often considered good etiquette to prevent your own germs from spreading.

Air pollution

Nearly 30,000 deaths a year are hastened by people being exposed to air pollution, according to the government's committee on the medical effects of air pollution. Ozone, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide can all exacerbate asthma, but the real villains are the fine particles (PM10 and PM2.5) that increase the risk of heart attacks (by getting into the blood stream), of chronic obstructive airways disease and of lung cancer.