IKEA, living room

cyclist reveals filthy air filter after sitting on his couch drinking coffee in Stockholm

I was not sure how to begin a post on air quality in Stockholm and since Black (Smoke) Friday was a week ago I could not use that for an introduction either. But then I read this.

Cyclist reveals filthy face masks after commuting in London

A cyclist is calling on the government to improve air quality after his face mask filters were left covered in filth after a week of commuting.
John Lenehan, an engineer, purchased the mask after suffering from a cough and irritable throat as he cycled to his office in Old Street, east London.
He wore the mask for three days as he made his way from Enfield to his workplace, cycling for about 60 miles in total, in April.
But when Mr Lenehan looked at filters inside the masks, designed to trap harmful particulates, he was shocked to find them completely blackened by pollution. ((http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/cyclist-reveals-filthy-face-masks-after-commuting-in-london-9901951.html))

Anti-pollution mask, air filters, London
Air pollution: a mask before travelling (left), mask from cycling (one week, centre) and mask from travelling on the train (one week, right)

Cycling advocacy groups campaign for wearing helmets and high visibility clothing while riding but never or rarely talk about the crap we breathe along the way. Every day I read about yellow vests and how they’re supposed to make cyclists more visible during Stockholm dark winters (given that the other person is looking in the right direction obviously) but I haven’t read a single article on air quality in central Stockholm lately that did not end with that one old plan: “we really should start looking into starting to think about banning studded tyres in the city center… next year… or the year after.”

Air quality in Stockholm is not as bad as in London one might say (it was in the news sometime ago on some website somewhere) but air quality in Stockholm is far from perfect either.

Cyclist reveals filthy air filter after sitting on his couch drinking coffee in Stockholm

Now, ladies and gentlemen, please let me show you the anti-pollution filter that sits between the couch I drink coffee on and the wild world outside.

Anti-pollution filter, Stockholm
According to the manufacturer’s recommendation that filter should be replaced once a year but not only did I not think it would turn black that quick, I did not even know there was a filter I needed to check once in a while.

Long story short, this one was last replaced sometime between 2008 and 2012 and is already black as coal. I’m getting a new one as soon as possible and the air quality around the couch will definitely improve but what about when I’m out walking, riding or just having a drink on the balcony?

Last time I checked lungs, bronchioles and windpipes could not be ordered from the Internet like spare parts for ventilation systems can and there’s a good chance they were not made to filter as much crap as they nowadays should. There are 17 different classes of air filters available on the market but only one for lungs. One that, unlike helmets and high visibility vests, doesn’t get much media exposure and is seldom brought to the public’s attention by all the new cycling experts in town.

At the end of the day it’s up to everyone to decide which piece of “safety” equipment should be acquired first but I know I’d buy and wear an anti-pollution mask before any sort of neon yellow jacket. So what about you? Do or would you wear an anti-pollution mask when cycling? Do you think the City of Stockholm and Naturskyddsföreningen should give some away in their “Thank you for cycling” goody bags next Spring?

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Laurent Pignon

Born in 1980 in France. Got lost in Finland in 2002. Living in Sweden since 2005. Daily, year-round, rain snow or shine bicycle commuter since 2012. And yes, that's lots of dates.

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