Warning over Olympic pollution problems

The Olympic Park, pic: EG Focus

London’s leading scientists have warned that high pollution levels in Hackney and Tower Hamlets could  jeopardize the health of Olympic competitors.

High pollution levels in the surrounding Olympic boroughs have become an increasing concern for competing athletes.

Competitors can breathe in up to twenty times more air than an inactive person, making them at risk to illness and impaired performance times.

Dr Ben Barratt, an analyst at London Air Quality Network said: “Hackney and Tower Hamlets pollution levels will be dictated by the weather. If there are long periods of warm sunny weather and easterly winds, then the athletes could be at risk.”

Endurance athletes, such as cyclists and long distance runners are more likely to be affected, as they are exposed to the high levels of pollution for a longer period of time.

Dr Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London, said: “If endurance sporting events are held on a day when London’s pollution is high, some athletes may not perform to their best ability and some may feel temporally unwell.”

Kelly went on to explain, that air pollution has a “powerful” effect on an athlete’s airways, causing them to “constrict and become temporarily inflamed”.  If pollution levels do not decrease again, then he states the effects will be only be temporary, and the athlete’s lungs should return to normal within 18-24 hours.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has been criticised for not taking enough action to reduce the pollution level in time for the summer games. With just over five months to go, the Mayor has yet to devise a pollution policy specifically for the Olympics.

The London games have no plans in place like its predecessors, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which saw the Chinese Government issue a blanket ban over half the cars in the city and shut down polluting industries, estimated at a cost of £6bn.

Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, said: “The Mayor should ban the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of London during the Games and keep an inner scheme in place as a legacy.  The longer he delays, the more disruption he’ll cause.

“We were promised the greenest Games ever.  London should deliver it by leading the world in tackling air pollution as we did after the Great Smog of 1952.”

However, not all people are as concerned over the risk Hackney and Tower Hamlet’s pollution levels will impose. Lewisham Olympic hopeful, James Ellington said: “I’ve been born and bred in London and have never experienced any hindrance. I don’t think that Hackney’s or Tower Hamlets pollution will affect anything.”


One Response

  1. ben January 19, 2012

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