Monday, December 31, 2007

Athletes Everywhere Deserve Olympic Quality Air

Beijing, the host of the 2008 Summer Olympics, is frantically attempting to reduce contaminants in the air before the world class athletes arrive. The concern is that the air quality is likely to impede athletic performance of the Olympians and prevent them from achieving new records.

And the hosts should be worried. As reported in the New York Times, Beijing experienced over 120 days of hazardous air in 2007. On December 28, the air quality measured 500 / 500 scale, which is considered a state of emergency affecting the entire population. Daily concentrations of an especially toxic pollutant --- particulate matter (PM 2.5) --- is 50 to 200 % higher than American standards allow.

Closer to home, the air you breathe is likely to harbor particulate pollution. Particulate pollution affects infants and children. Particulate pollution affects the elderly, the sick or those with chronic lung conditions. It also affects healthy adults who exercise regularly outdoors.

Joggers, walkers, and sports participants are trying to do something good for body and soul only to have their efforts sabotaged by pollutants. Since exercisers breathe deeply, the microscopic pollutants are able to lodge in the lungs and also enter the blood stream, which can cause serious chronic and lethal diseases.

What Can You Do?

Check the air quality at "Air Now" before engaging in outdoor activities and modify activities based on air quality, the duration of the activity and your physical condition. These guidelines were established for schools, but apply to everyone participating in outdoor activities.

If you smell smoke, you are in danger since wood smoke contains dangerous pollutants, the most significant is particulate matter (PM 2.5). Go indoors and postpone outdoor activities.

Even if you don't smell smoke, particulate pollution can linger in the air for up to 20 days. Avoid stagnant lower areas and move to higher ground.

Educate your neighbors and support legislation to reduce air pollution.

Athletes everywhere deserve to breathe easier, deserve Olympic air.

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