Air pollution affecting sporting performance of children, study suggests

92% of sports grounds in London and 28% around the UK have levels of particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) that are higher than World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, according to a new study.

When taking part in aerobic activity, people inhale more air and breathe it more deeply into their lungs, therefore, exercising in an area with high air pollution can pose a serious health risk, particularly for children who are more susceptible to the effects of poor air quality.

In their new report titled BreathUK, the Air Team investigated the levels of air pollution at 94 sporting grounds across the UK. 

The researchers collected diffusion tube data and annual statistics from the postcode of each sporting facility. 

They found that 26 of the 94 sites had air pollution levels that were higher of the WHO guidelines and 92% of the sports grounds analysed in London have dangerous levels of air pollution.

The running track where Mo Farah once trained was among the sites revealed to have illegal levels of NO2 (48µg/m3) and dangerous levels of PM2.5 (13µg/m3).

The authors of the report outline that government action to cut air pollution will not only have immediate benefits for children’s lung function, but it is also likely to significantly improve the nation’s sporting performance. 

Dr Ian Mydway, senior lecturer in Respiratory Toxicology at King’s College London said: ‘A child growing up with asthma in a polluted city will have worse symptoms which will limit their potential to train, which is likely to have an impact on their optimal performance.’

Anella Wickenden from The Air Team said: ‘Lots of us worry about the impacts of air pollution on our children’s lungs.

‘But we might not think about how this affects their ability to play sport and stay fit. There are huge benefits to cleaning up our air, from your local school day to Team GB’s performance at the Olympics. 

‘We want the government and city mayors to recognise these benefits and take immediate action to clean up our air. If you care about British sport, you need to care about air pollution.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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