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Health Of Athletes In Hong Kong

A letter sent to the Sunday Morning Post from Anthony J Hedley, School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong

The Editor

Sunday Morning Post

Dear Sir

False analysis of threat from air pollution

The majority of your readers’ letters on air pollution have been balanced and informed pleas for urgent intervention to protect environmental health. However Mitch Geall appears to want to want to trivialise this problem with misleading statements about pollution impacts on the health of athletes in Hong Kong (Sunday Post March 2).

Geall enjoyed his road running in extremely clean air in Australia between 1982-92,an opportunity denied to generations of runners in Hong Kong where average pollution levels are several hundred percent above those in any Australian city.

His attempts to make a trade-off between Hong Kong’s 2008 pollution and levels in Los Angeles in 1984 is pointless and cynical.At the 1984 Olympics there was considerable concern about air quality and incidentally during those games the 1980 British Olympic 800 meters champion Steve Ovett was admitted to hospital with severe inflammation of the lungs.

To argue that New York’s air pollution is anywhere near the sustained level in Hong Kong is simply nonsense.

Geall compounds his flawed analysis by saying “It’s only the one run after all”.

I suggest the dictum “First do no harm” must apply to any sports event for young people,including the year long preparation which runners here engage in for this endurance event while breathing filthy air.

Let’s hear the organisers and supporters of the Hong Kong marathon demand that the Chief Executive acts immediately to curb this environmental threat before further damage is done to athletes’ health and the image of Hong Kong, including its international marathon.

Anthony J Hedley
School of Public Health
University of Hong Kong

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