Tube’s rust dust less harmful than car fumes
The London Underground might seem dusty and polluted but the air beneath the capital is safer to breathe than that on the surface.
A new report suggests taking the tube might be better for the lungs than cycling or walking.
The report published in medical journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine says that while those travelling and working on the Tube will be exposed to greater concentrations of iron oxide, or rust, the level of harmful ultra-fine particles from exhaust emissions is far lower underground.
The research team from the Edinburgh-based Institute of Occupational Medicine took samples of dust from locations throughout the network and found that dust particles were heavier than those found on the surface but were mainly made up of relatively harmless iron oxide, not carbon.
They said the levels of chemicals found in dust particles were well below those allowed in the workplace and there was very little risk of the dust leading to lung or heart disease.
Any such risk would be so small it would be unlikely to be detectable.
The researchers said they would not encourage comparisons between the dust above and below ground, as the particles were very different in their composition.
But in conclusion they said: “A sensible answer to the question ‘should I travel by London Underground?’ would be: ‘if you travel in London base your choice on cost and convenience, not on risks to health by inhalation of dust. Above ground you will breathe traffic fumes, below less of that but some iron oxide’.”
“Those principally at risk from dust inhalation by working or travelling in the London Underground should not be seriously concerned, although efforts to reduce dust concentrations should continue, since the dust is not without toxicity.”
By Sam Bond