Cycling is a terrific way to get around town and stay in shape—as long as you don't mind a little extra black carbon clogging your lungs. According to a new study by the London School of Medicine, some cyclists have 2.3-times more black carbon in their lungs when compared with pedestrians. The sample size was small, but the research suggests that avid urban cyclists may face severe health problems on the horizon (if they don't get run over first).

Researchers collected sputum samples from five adults who regularly cycled to work in London and five pedestrians, and analyzed the amount of black carbon found in their airway macrophages. According to a press release, all participants in the study were non-smoking healthy urban commuters aged between 18 and 40 yrs, and the probability that this difference occurred by chance is less than 1 in 100.

The European Lung Foundation [ELF!] says that inhalation of black carbon particles is associated with a wide range of health effects, including heart attacks and reduced lung function. Given the big surge in cycling in NYC, one wonders if the DOT is doing enough to keep cyclists safe from biker's lung. Bike lanes are nice, but shouldn't the city also be distributing surgical masks to cyclists? [Via The Atlantic]