Spending time at the Lakes in central Copenhagen could cause cardiovascular problems

Researchers suggest it is better to avoid roads with heavy traffic such as Øster Søgade

Spending as little as five hours wandering around the lakes in central Copenhagen can seriously affect your health, a new study suggests.

Every day, almost 27,000 vehicles travel down Øster Søgade, which runs from Vesterbro to Østerbro alongside the lakes, and researchers claim the traffic fumes are so intense they could lead to serious cardiovascular problems in a matter of hours. 

The three lakes – Sankt Jørgens Sø, Peblinge Sø, and Sortedams Sø – located between the city centre and Nørrebro/Frederiksberg (across four bodies of water), are a very popular destination for cyclists, runners, and pedestrians.

Jette Gjerke Hemmingsen, a PhD student at the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen, believes it is therefore very important to investigate how pollution affects people's health.

High risk of developing cardiovascular disease
In the study, researchers exposed 60 moderately overweight people over 55 years old to the air from Øster Søgade for five hours and measured how the traffic-related pollution affected their cardiovascular system. 

"We could see their hearts were disturbed. We also measured their lungs and vessel function and saw that the blood vessels' ability to expand diminished.

These effects are associated with the increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease," Hemmingsen told Videnskab magazine.

While researchers focused on older people, other studies suggest young people could be affected by heavy pollution just as much, especially if they cycle. 

Avoid roads with heavy traffic
Professor Ole Hertel from Aarhus University agrees that pollution from busy traffic on roads in Copenhagen can harm people's health.

"We have strong reason to believe that exposure to high concentrations of air pollution has an effect on health — both in the short and longer term," Hertel told Videnskab.

He recommends that Copenhageners who care about their health should avoid the most congested roads and walk or cycle on less busy streets.

"Cyclists can reduce their exposure to traffic pollution by up to 30 percent if the choose a route that is perhaps a little longer but avoids the busiest roads," Hertel noted.

Busiest roads in Copenhagen

Gyldenløvesgade: 67,600 vehicles per day

HC Andersens Boulevard: 55,400 vehicles per day

Nørre Søgade: 32,100 vehicles per day

Øster Søgade: 26,900 vehicles per day

Jagtvej: 18,700 vehicles per day

(Source: Ole Hertel)

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