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Will Athletes Increase Their Chances of Asthma Attacks in Bejing?

China has already overtaken the U.S. as the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to a new report to be published by the University of California in next month’s Journal of Environment and Economic. The report suggests China‘s greenhouse gas emissions have been underestimated and probably passed those of the U.S. in 2006-2007.

While methane is a more noxious greenhouse gas, increases in CO2 only exacerbate the issues regarding air quality in China.  News reports about the olympics have focused on little else, and while it is great that China is given the opportunity to host the Olympics, we have to ask ourselves, at what cost? These games are every four years and four years can make or break an Olympian’s ability to perform because we only get slower and more prone to injury as we get older.

According to an article in the LA Times, some athletes are training with masks, while others are training in countries close by like South Korea or Japan.

One Olympian, Matt Reed, a triathlete from Boulder, CO, had some trouble while training in China earlier this year.  While he seemed to be able to complete the swimming and biking portion of his last race, 1500 meters into his run, his lungs started to burn and basically he just shut down from a respiratory standpoint.

Reed blames this on pollution in Bejing.

The air quality issue so dire, there are blogs about it. The BejingAirblog at  http://www.pyongyangsquare.com/beijingair/ gives a pretty accurate account of air quality issues in Bejing. Apparently, the U.S. team is bringing 1000 air masks, and the team’s lead exercise physiologist is looking into to see if some team members qualify for an International Olympic Committee exemption to use an asthma inhaler while competing.

For those athletes prone to asthma attacks, a ruling on an inhaler may make all the difference. According to the BejingAirblog, marathon world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie, who has allergies, and the world’s No. 1 women’s tennis player, Justine Henin, who has asthma, have expressed reservations about competing in the Olympics for fear that pollution will exacerbate their breathing problems.

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