As the world’s various Olympic teams begin to arrive in London, the country’s health experts have warned that potential summer smog could impair the performance and fitness of many of the athletes. Keith Prowse, respiratory consultant and medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation, told The Guardian that if the city sees a “summer smog” like it has already five time this year,  many athletes could potentially need medication and experience chest pains, sore throats and shortness of breath.

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While there has been concern about the spiralling budget of the Games and whether it has successfully met its ‘green mandate’ or not, the idea that visiting athletes could be waylaid by smog wasn’t really considered — unlike Beijing in 2008, where smog was a major concern in the run up to the Games. In London, you would have been forgiven for thinking that it would be rain, not smog that would be the problem. But says that is not the case.

“If there is a smog incident then athletes, especially in the endurance events, will not achieve their top performance and those who have any tendency to asthma will be badly affected,” Prowse explained. “Athletes are exerting themselves to the maximum, taking in a lot of air. If that air is polluted it will inflame the air passages. It could have a significant effect on endurance events like the marathon, anything over 400-800m, even sailing.”

Unfortunately, London air pollution is some of the worst in Europe, and should the capital experience a spell of hot weather, pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, can form a low-level ozone smog which can get trapped for several days. So far, the the UK Met Office said they could not rule out a London smog despite three months of rain which has had the effect of keeping most air pollution levels low.

“The outlook up to the start of the Olympics is for changeable weather. Forecasts for the southern half of the UK favour below average sunshine amounts, with mean daytime temperatures about four times more likely to be below average than above,” said a spokeswoman. The Met Office’s 30-day forecast says “a lengthy spell of hot, sunny weather does look unlikely” for the two weeks starting 30 July, just three days after the London 2012 opening ceremony.

“London’s normal level of pollution is not going to trouble athletes as the problem is most acute near busy roads where they will not be performing. I only anticipate a problem if the weather turns very warm and we have still conditions,” added Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London.

Rest assured though that smog will only be a problem if the weather turns warm and thus far in the UK, that has not been a problem. The country is experiencing record levels of rainfall, so perhaps flooding should be of greater concern than smog.

via The Guardian

Images:  IainBuchanan and  eviltomthai