Air pollution holding back next generation of GB sports stars

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Government action to cut air pollution would have immediate benefits for children’s lung function across the UK and is likely to significantly improve the nation’s sporting performance, according to a new report.

The study, entitled Breathe GB, analysed air pollution levels at training grounds across the UK, as well as interviewing respiratory consultants and leading PE experts. It suggests that children living and playing in deprived areas are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, which can cause asthma and limit their ability to train.

The report used advanced modelling to compare data at training grounds and sports fields across the UK. Of the 94 sites assessed, 26 broke World Health Organisation limits for PM2.5 or NO2, representing 28% while more than half (52) came close to, or hit, the threshold for PM2.5.

In the report, Professor Jonathan Grigg of Queen Mary University explains “there is very strong evidence that exposure to air pollution stunts children’s lung function. Children with clinically low lung function will have reduced exercise capacity.”

Particulate pollution (known as PM2.5) is considered particularly dangerous as the microscopic particles enter via the lungs and get absorbed into the bloodstream and is associated with a wide range of health conditions including lung cancer, asthma, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and depression.

Lucy Harbor, a parent from London whose child was hospitalised with pneumonia linked to air pollution, said: ” I’m incredibly worried about the amount of pollution that they are breathing in and what impact that is having on their sporting potential and also their long term health. Queen Mary’s University monitored the pollution my son was exposed to in the school playground last year, and found ‘very worrying’ levels of pollution while he was playing after school football club.”

The sites were selected from five major UK cities: London, Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield. These included sports grounds where major stars trained including David Beckham, Sol Campbell, Christine Ohuruogu, Mo Farah, Raheem Sterling, Frank Lampard and Linford Christie.

The Air Team is calling on sports organisations, MPs, schools and athletes to back their campaign at www.breathegb.org

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