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Athletes, spectators faced unprecedented air pollution at 2008 Olympic Games
Date:6/19/2009

CORVALLIS, Ore. Particulate air pollution during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing constantly exceeded levels considered excessive by the World Health Organization, was far worse than other recent Olympic Games, and was about 30 percent higher than has been reported by Chinese environmental experts even though some favorable weather conditions helped reduce the problem.

The weather, in fact, turned out to be more valuable in addressing this concern than major programs by the Chinese government to heavily restrict automobile use, close factories and slow construction during and before the Olympic games.

These findings are among the final results just published in Environmental Science and Technology, a professional journal, in the first comprehensive study of particulate air pollutants in Beijing and how they compared to past Olympics.

The research was done before, during and after the 2008 Olympics by scientists from Oregon State University and Peking University, in work funded by the National Science Foundation in the United States and the National Science Foundation of China.

"Considering the massive efforts by China to reduce air pollution in and around Beijing during the Olympics, this was the largest scale atmospheric pollution experiment ever conducted," said Staci Simonich, an OSU associate professor of environmental and molecular toxicology. "Despite all that, it was some evening rains and favorable shifts in the winds that provided the most relief from the pollution.

"This demonstrates how difficult it is to solve environmental problems on a short-term, local basis," she added.

And despite some favorable weather and the pollution control efforts, researchers said, the end result was some of the most severe particulate pollution that Olympic athletes have dealt with in recent games. The levels were about two to four times higher than that of Los Angeles on an average day.

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Contact: Staci Simonich
staci.simonich@oregonstate.edu
541-737-9194
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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