PEDAL - Personal exposure during cycling and associations with health-related effects

Study objective

Exposure to ambient particulate matter (PM) is a leading cause of global morbidity and mortality. Ultrafine particles (UFP) have been suggested to be specifically toxic. One of the most important urban sources of UFPs are combustion processes of motor vehicles. Often cyclists are exposed to relatively high UFP exposure, due to their proximity to the vehicles and their elevated respiratory minute volume, due to their increased physical activity. PEDAL aims to investigate the independent association of short-term personal exposure to road traffic-related UFPs with health-related effects in humans in a real life setting.

Within the frame word of this pilot study we developed an application to the DFG to conduct a larger study with more subjects. The application was rejected with minor revisions and is now in work for resubmission.

Specific objectives

To investigate

  • the association of short-term personal exposure to traffic-related UFPs and health-related (blood pressure, fraction of exhaled nitric oxide, lung function, augmentation pressure and augmentation index, pulse wave velocity, heart rate variability and markers of inflammation and oxidative stress) effects in humans during cycling in urban areas; taking concurrent exposures to other air pollutants into account.
  • the counterfactual exposure of a cyclist using the alternative route on the same day, using a second cargo bike with reduced measurement setup

Study design

cross-over scripted exposure study

Study population:

Pilot study: 12 healthy volunteers (32.2±10.2 years), used to cycling in the city of Düsseldorf

Full study: 60 healthy volunteers (18-60 years), used to cycling in the city of Düsseldorf

Study area

Routes in the inner city of Düsseldorf

Study period

Pilot study: 2019-2021

Full study:

Current status

Pilot study completed

DFG resubmission in progress

Principal investigators

Exposure assessment and characterization

  • Prof. Dr. Konradin Weber, Laboratory for Environmental Measurement Techniques, Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences, Germany
  • Tobias Pohl, Laboratory for Environmental Measurement Techniques, Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences, Germany

Overall coordination, health examinations, data management and statistical analysis

  • Prof. Barbara Hoffmann, MPH, Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany
  • Dr. Vanessa Soppa, Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany
  • Meltem Baydak, Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany

Project Team Heinrich-Heine-University of Düsseldorf

  • Prof. Dr. Barbara Hoffmann
  • Dr. Vanessa Soppa
  • Anna Buschka

External Funding

  • Pilot study: Research Commission of the Medical School of the University of Düsseldorf, Germany

Project Publications

  • Soppa VJ, Glaubitz L, Pohl T, Lange M, Kramer T, Weber K, Hoffmann B. Personal exposure during cycling and health effects (PEDAL) - a semi-controlled crossover study. Environ. Health Perspect. 2020.

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