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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rollers and Trainers - Good for Fitness, Hazardous to our Health?

While I was setting up my roller for another training ride, I noticed that my tire looked like this.
At first, I thought this was some sort of tire indicator telling me that the tire needed to be replaced, but after rubbing it with my finger, I noticed that some of the metallic material transferred to my finger.  Apparently, the aluminum from my Travel Trac roller transferred to my tire.  Keep in mind that this was from a single one hour ride.  Check out my ride at Strava. http://app.strava.com/activities/112243986

Prior to this ride, the entire tire was just as red as everything else.  While aluminum is used in many applications (beverages, deodorant, cooking and food storage), I question whether this much aluminum would be considered safe.  There has to be some sort of health consequence.  

How Can Aluminum Affect Your Health?
I did a quick Google search and came across health information related to aluminum from the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.  Research so far have found that the neurological and respiratory system may be damaged as a result of aluminum inhalation.  While the findings have been inconsistent, Alzheimer's disease is one of the most mentioned neurological diseases to be associated with high amounts of aluminum exposure.  COPD is another common disease from dust inhalation at the workplace.  Studies haven't found conclusive evidence that high doses of aluminum causes cancer.  While there's a chance you might not get cancer from aluminum, the other diseases aren't exactly your common cold.

While we probably never spend a full eight hour shift on the trainer or roller, it might not take as much time to develop these problems considering the conditions.  Not only are we close to the source of dust production, our respiratory rate is high from exercise.

What About Plastic Rollers?
After reading about the health consequences from unsafe levels of aluminum exposure, it made me think about the people riding on plastic or PVC rollers, so I did another search.  The problems are the same as aluminum with one exception.  PVC has been verified as a cancer causing material.

WAIT, We're Not Exactly Doomed!
While my roller produced a lot of aluminum dust, my trainer didn't transfer any dust to my tire.  This may be due to the manufacturing process used to finish the resistance drum.  Before buying a trainer or roller, it would be a good idea to bring a wheel fitted with a trainer tire like the one I used (Vittoria Trainer Tire) and ride it for a few minutes to see if it produces metallic dust.  This will give you the peace of mind that years down the road, you'll have a better chance of having good health.

Trainer or Roller Buying Tips:
  1. Bring a colorful trainer tire to get a good visual assessment of how much dust the trainer or roller produces.
  2. Avoid plastic or PVC rollers!
  3. Choose based on preference (magnetic, fluid, resisted, non-resisted).


References (expected to grow):
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=190&tid=34
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12771394
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0080977;jsessionid=0DC0759EE73D68EB2284A286F53712DE