Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Pollution Threatens Olympics! (again)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7501756.stm


It's not been long since the people of China were working round the clock to get rid of hideous amounts of bright green algae that were swamping their beaches (seriosuly, look it up, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7485405.stm). The authorities stated that this was a natural, if extreme, occurence, and that is possible, but the more likely explanation is extremely high levels of chemical fertilizers, flowing untreated into the chinese sea as a reuslt of intense agriculture. We're just as guilty of this in the UK, albeit to less extreme effect.
But now the quality of air in Beijing is being called into question. Apparently, the air quality is well below international standards. After seeing all those desperate people on boats scooping algae out of the sea with buckets, I couldn't help but imagine the people of Beijing running around with nets and hand held fans, trying to collect all the airborne dirt. This would never happen because it;

a) Is incredibly impractical
b) Would require far more people than even china can muster
c) Is too soon to the Olympics for this to have any effect
d) Impossible
e) All of the above.

The answer is obviously e). Thanks for playing. But as a result of this news, there have been a number of petitions for the athletes to use Asthma medication. On the surface, I see no issue with this. Although asthma sprays do contai steroids, going by my own observations, at school, the kids who use asthma medication are generally crap at sports. They're picked last for every team, like the fat children (of which I was one, so I know what I'm talking about). But on reflection, I question this appeal. I don't think it'll give the athletes unfair advantages, especially if they're all doing it. And I admit I'm not a pharmacologist, but it was my understanding that asthma was caused by a constriction of the airways, and inhalers released medication that widened the airways, allowing sufficient air in.

How is this going to help with air pollution? I understand that they're not getting enough air because of the pollution, but opening the lungs isn't going to solve anything if the problem is with the air itself. Maybe it's a different type of medication, but I struggle to imagine any medication or chemical that can somehow allow a person to filter the air they breathe before it gets to the lungs, seeing as we don't have any biological system for doing so. Many athletes train at high altitude (so low oxygen) environments, meaning their respiratory systems increase in efficiency to compensate, so they already have lungs like beach-balls. But you can have a trachea like the channel tunnel, if the air you breath is rank, it's not going to help.

On the BBC article, there's a typical piece of media friendly 'science' from John Brewer, "performance director at the Lucozade Sport Science Academy in Slough". To be fair to him, it's possible he gave a very detailed explanation of the variabilities involved and they editted it down to what is presented. Either that, or he's one of those media hungry managers/idiots who use long winded explanations to mask a lack of intelligence. He basically states that air pollution can have an effect "but the extent of the effect will depend on the event". Sprinters and shot-putters won't be too badly affected, whereas marathon runners and cyclists, endurence athletes, will suffer the most. So to put it briefly, the more time you spend breathing the polluted air, the more it will affect you.

Thanks for that. Who'd have thought?

The only sollution is for all competitors to use scuba gear or some sort of life-saving respiratory gear. Nothing else will get round the problem. But this is another reason to put forward my idea of Lotterlympics. Get rid of all these highly trained professional atheletes, it's boring watching someone do something when you know they're really good at it, spectacular failures is what people want. So I think we should select all athletes from the general populace at random. It would be amazing! Imagine it, a 35 year old plumber from Croydon in the 100m dash against a 20 stone New York Cop and a 43 year old New Zealand Sheep herder. Boxing between a 6ft Kenyan Soldier and a 28 stone Japanese Sumo wrestler. The possibilities are endless.

Throw in text votes for peoples favourite competitors and I guarantee the powers that be wil lgo for it.

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1 comment:

Adam said...

Good read!

I can find you some of those plumbers if you want? I got 5 of them living in my road.

Not in the same house.

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