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newsrel -- Air pollution episodes especially harmful to athletes, outdoor workers

Posted: 24 Jul 2008 09:55:28
Air pollution shown to impact even healthy outdoor sports

Release 08-63
July 24, 2008
Gennet Paauwe

Air pollution episodes especially harmful to athletes, outdoor

Health effects include respiratory problems, DNA damage

SACRAMENTO - Staff presented research today to the California
Air Resources Board that links air pollution episodes to adverse
health effects for athletes and those who must work outdoors.

Scientists have found that outdoor exercise during high levels
of smog or particulate matter may cause otherwise healthy
individuals to experience lung function decrease, exacerbation
of asthma, and even DNA damage. For those with pre-existing
respiratory or heart ailments, the danger is even greater.

"This report once again shows that an active person's zeal for
fitness may sometimes do more harm than good when air quality is
suffering," said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. "People should be
aware of air quality in their region and take precautions to
protect their health when pollution spikes occur. For example,
we are surprised and alarmed to find many people out exercising
during the recent rash of wildfires that have blanketed much of
the state in smoke."

The findings from the studies include:

    * A three-fold decrease in lung function after walking near
diesel traffic compared to walking in a park with no traffic;
    * A four-fold increase in DNA damage after cycling in
    * A 10 percent reduction in lung function after cycling with
ozone exposure;
    * Delivery of oxygen to the heart may drop by three times
when exercising while exposed to diesel exhaust; and,
    * A three-fold increase in asthma development for children
who played multiple sports in high ozone areas. 

Research shows that during exercise, people breathe faster; a
greater proportion of air is inhaled through the mouth,
bypassing nasal filtration, and pollutants are carried more
deeply into the lungs. And, greater volumes of air are exchanged
during exercise -- up to 10 or 20 times more air compared to when
at rest.

As breathing rates increase so does the quantity of pollutants
inhaled. Anyone exercising outdoors during times of high
pollution should remember they will receive a greater dose of
pollutants. Additionally, research studies found that people who
exercise near roadways such as joggers, cyclists and pedestrians
experience increased risk because not only are they exposed to
outdoor air pollution but traffic-related pollution as well.

For people who already have compromised lung function or heart
disease, these risks are amplified.

It is well established that exercise promotes health and
fitness. Regular exercise can help counteract the negative
effects of air pollution. For example, regular activity may
improve removal of inhaled particles from the lungs and can
strengthen immune defenses. Prior to exercise outdoors, people
can protect themselves by heeding air quality advisories,
available in local newspapers, television weather reports, and
through local health agencies, air districts and U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency websites, including
www.airnow.gov .

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California
Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and
protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through
effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and
considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air
pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain
health based air quality standards.

The energy challenge facing California is real. Every
Californian needs to take immediate action to reduce energy
consumption. For a list of simple ways you can reduce demand and
cut your energy cost, see our web site at http://www.arb.ca.gov


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