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Beijing Marathon Impacted by Severe Pollution

21 Oct 2014, 10:07 am

(Photo of pollution in Beijing, on Jan. 4, 2007.)
Photo credit: J. Aaron Farr/Flickr

Running a half or full marathon is plenty difficult on its own. But for those attempting to completing the Beijing Marathon on Sunday, the task was made considerably more difficult due to sky high air pollution levels.

According to the South China Morning Post, Beijing’s official Air Quality Index exceeded 400 parts per million in PM 2.5 — reaching well into the “hazardous” category. Here’s how the U.S. Embassy in Beijing defines hazardous air quality: “Serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; serious risk of respiratory effects in general population.”

It continues with, “everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors…”

But even with the dangerous air quality, an estimated 30,000 participants took part in the race; many of whom were forced to wear gas masks to combat the effects of the acrid air.

Race organizers said the air quality was safe, while the air quality monitoring station at U.S. Embassy refuted that assertion.

According to the BBC, one person said that the air in Beijing on Sunday smelled like “burnt coal”.

Pollution in the Chinese capital has long been a problem. Rapid industrialization and loosely enforced environmental laws have combined to make the city of 20 million notoriously polluted. An environmental study released by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences earlier this year claimed that the pollution in Beijing is so bad that the city is “almost uninhabitable for human beings”. Over the last year, the Chinese government has poured over a billion dollars into pollution control systems, trying to rectify the problem. But, rapid urban growth is keeping Beijing – and its runners – in the throes of nearly unabated industrial pollution.

Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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