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Pollution in Beijing

As with many Chinese cities, there has been a recent history of traffic congestion and high pollution levels in Beijing. Therefore, authorities have made air pollution their major priority in the lead up to the 2008 Games. One way to deal with this is to reduce traffic congestion, though industrial pollution is a bigger problem.

Following China's economic boom in recent years, Chinese cities have ranked among the most polluted in the world. Among them, Beijing's air quality is consistently among the worst in the country. The problem is heightened in winter, when still many people heat their rooms with coal. Every day, more and more cars are also crowding the streets.

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau monitors the city's pollution level, and rates it on a one-to-five scale.

The high levels of smog and its associated gases is known to cause lung damage and respiratory problems. Such a situation is not good for visiting athletes. During the Olympics, the authorities plan to reduce vehicle traffic and shut down factories, which will hopefully have an effect.

What can the athletes do about it?

There is not much an athlete can do to adjust to the high smog levels, unlike for the heat which athletes can acclimatize for. To try and reduce the amount of inhaled pollutants, it may be useful is to wear a mouth filter during their time in Beijing, but such a device would not be suitable for the time they are competing. Hopefully their accommodation will have good filters to improve the air quality inside their rooms, and they should spend as little time outdoors as they can, which may be difficult.

While acclimatizing to the environmental conditions may be best achieved by arriving in Beijing well before their events, because of the pollution problem they would be better off acclimatizing in a similar climate which does not have the air quality issues of Beijing.

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