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July 6th, 2008:

Olympians Face Circulation Woes In Beijing’s Bad Air-Experts

Reuters – Sun Jul 6, 2008 12:03am EDT – By Tan Ee Lyn

HONG KONG, July 6 (Reuters) – Olympic athletes exposed to Beijing’s polluted air face possible blood circulation problems which could affect their performance, experts say, adding they should avoid crowded places whenever possible.

Pollution is a key concern for athletes heading to Beijing for the August Games and the International Olympic Committee has said it may reschedule endurance events to remove potential health risks.

“Athletes consume more air and this can end in cardiovascular problems. Particulates can get into the respiratory system and blood, creating an inflammatory response,” said Wong Chitming of the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Community Medicine.

“Blood viscosity goes up and this affects circulation and … energy distribution. Muscles that need the energy may not get it. At worst, people can even land in hospital.”

The Chinese capital is one of the most polluted cities in the world and its authorities last week removed 300,000 high-emission cars off its roads in a bid to clean the air and ease traffic. (See story [ID:nPEK262443])

And authorities in Tangshan and Tianjin, cities about 150 km (90 miles) and 115 km (70 miles) from Beijing, have ordered over 300 factories to shut down to improve air quality ahead of the Games, sources say. ([ID:nPEK329005])

In all, the country has spent 120 billion yuan (US$17.3 billion) in the past decade to clean up, but air quality remains a major headache.

Some athletes are worried, including twice champion Haile Gebrselassie, an asthma sufferer who has pulled out of the Olympic marathon, but he hopes to run in the 10,000-metre event.


Recent studies say that the bad air could pose problems for competitors, especially those with asthma, said experts at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

The ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide and other pollutants in Beijing’s hazy air are asthmagenic, meaning exposure can inflame the airways of sensitive people and even cause an asthma attack. Similar problems were witnessed in past Olympic cities of Atlanta, Athens and Seoul, they said.

“Not only will athletes have irritated eyes, but a good portion may have decreased potential to be competitive,” said Timothy Craig, chair of the AAAAI Sports Medicine Committee.

“Exercise can enhance the adverse effects air pollutants have on health. Rigorous exercise combined with pollutants can sometimes stimulate an asthma attack.”

The new research will be presented next month in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI).

Sandra Anderson from Australia’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital found recently that exercise-induced asthma results from injuries to the airway caused by breathing poorly conditioned air, particularly cold, dry air over long periods of time.

She and her colleagues concluded that cold-weather athletes and swimmers, who train in irritant environments, may be at risk of airway injury leading to increased airway sensitivity.

Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) affects an estimated 20 percent of top athletes and an estimated one in six of all Olympic athletes, according to the AAAAI. EIA frequently affects individuals who do not suffer from chronic asthma.

Typically, athletes with EIA experience difficulty breathing 5-10 minutes after exercise. Other symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, chest pain and prolonged or unexpected shortness of breath.

Some asthma drugs can be used to control and treat EIA, but the experts warned athletes to seek official approval first because anti-doping regulations restrict the use of many asthma medications at the Olympics.

Spectators could also face problems from high pollution levels, especially those with a history of allergies or asthma.

Wong advised athletes to avoid crowded places and to keep to a simple diet with lots of vegetables and fruit.

“Fruit and vegetables may help. Our past study has shown that they can reduce the ill effects of air pollution,” he said.

Smog-Filled Sky Backs Artist’s Billboard Vision For Tamar

Dan Kadison – SCMP – Updated on Jul 06, 2008

A depiction of the completed Tamar government complex at the Central construction site shows the future buildings set against a hazy background – an unintentional reminder of concerns that the structures could add to the city’s pollution problem.

The image appears as part of a billboard for the Tamar Development Project, a HK$4.9 billion effort to erect new government headquarters by 2011.

Tamar architect Rocco Yim Suen-kee has contended that his “door” design is environmentally friendly with a focus on energy efficiency, green spaces and water conservation. But before construction even began on the complex, Clear the Air, a Hong Kong-based non-profit group, suggested the complex could hurt the city’s air quality.

The group has not budged from its position, saying the structures will not only draw in more vehicles, but will also trap exhaust by helping to create a “canyon” effect.

Asked about the new billboard, Clear the Air chairman Christian Masset replied: “It’s a reminder of the deterioration to come. We should go towards improvement, but with this project we go towards deterioration.”

The government disagreed, and offered its own explanation for the sign and its background.

“The Tamar Development Project has incorporated a large number of green features. When commissioned, the Central Government Complex of Tamar will be one of the greenest government buildings in Hong Kong,” according to a statement from a government spokesman.

“The design of the signboard is an artistic impression produced by our architect. The background is blurred so as to highlight the different components of the Tamar project – the Central Government Complex, the Legislative Council Complex and the green open space. There is no haze or `pollution’.”

A spokeswoman for the Gammon-Hip Hing joint venture – which was awarded the Tamar contract – concurred with the government, expressing the same sentiments about the purpose of the sign and touting the many environmental benefits of the project.

Climate Change To Intensify Food Crisis

Climate change to intensify food crisis, envoy warns G8

UN official says global problems interconnected

Agencies in Amsterdam and Sapporo – SCMP – Updated on Jul 06, 2008

The global food crisis will only worsen because of climate change, the UN climate chief has warned, urging leaders of the world’s richest countries meeting in Japan tomorrow to set goals to reduce carbon emissions within the next dozen years.

Yvo de Boer’s comments come amid fears that food security and soaring oil prices could overtake climate change in the priorities of the Group of Eight meeting, although global warming was the theme set by the host, Japan, where several thousand people rallied yesterday in Sapporo.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also warned the G8 against sidelining climate change, amid fears that the credit crunch would cause the G8 industrialised nations to back-pedal on pledges to cut carbon emissions and increase aid to poor countries by US$50 billion a year.

Since the last G8 meeting in Germany, oil prices have doubled to surpass US$140 a barrel and soaring prices were already having an effect on climate issues.

Mr Brown stressed the need for united action in the west to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and boost food production in developing countries.

“The world is suffering a triple challenge: of higher fuel prices; higher food prices; and a credit crunch,” Mr Brown told The Guardian.

“My message to the G8 will be that instead of sidelining climate change and the development agenda, the present economic crisis means that instead of relaxing our efforts we have got to accelerate them.”

Mr de Boer said food and global warming were interconnected and that ignoring the issue “will get you into deeper trouble down the road”.

He said it was uncertain whether the industrialised countries would firm up the goal adopted a year ago to “consider seriously” halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

He did, however, welcome the move by the board of the World Bank on Tuesday to formally launch two investment funds for climate change that could raise up to US$10 billion.

US President George W. Bush said he would press for progress on global efforts to fight climate change, promote free trade and push G8 leaders to make good on pledges to help Africa fight HIV/Aids and other illnesses.

Mr Bush will also make the case that no global climate change pact can work unless polluting developing nations like China and India accept some form of long-term goals for curbing emissions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also advocates formally expanding the G8 to include China and others, although Japan for one is not keen to see its Asian rival join the club.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States will be joined during the July 7 to 9 meetings in the lakeside resort of Toyako by the heads of seven African states and major economies, including China and India.

Several thousand people rallied yesterday in Sapporo, about two hours’ drive from the luxury hotel where the summit will be held.

Four Japanese men were arrested, said police on the northern island of Hokkaido, of which Sapporo is the capital. Two were arrested for violating public safety laws and two others for interfering with police activities.

Summits of the G8 have become a magnet for protesters.

Japan has detained and questioned dozens of people at its airports, including journalists and academics, in the run-up to the summit.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Associated Press