Air Pollution Levels Hindering Children's Sport Performance

A recent report has revealed that air pollution in the UK may be decreasing the sporting level of children, especially those in extreme and dangerous high pollution level areas.

A study which was conducted by Breathe GB studied the pollution in 94 different sporting locations. One of these locations being Perry Park in Birmingham which was one of the highest on their record and it is also the location of the commonwealth games in 2022.

Other high-profile training locations also recorded pollution levels that exceeded those recommended by the World Health Organisation. One of those being the running track where Sir Mo Farah did some of his training.

The report suggests that if children are taking part in sports activities in the high pollution areas then it can lead to a stunted lung function which can potentially affect their future sporting performance.

The health impacts are amplified if a child has a respiratory condition such as asthma. The extra pollution in the air will cause any symptoms they already have to be worsened and therefore stop them training at their best. This will then go onto affect the child’s optimum performance levels.

Many professors and senior lecturers support the claims from the report. Jonathan Grigg from the Queen Mary University, who is a professor in paediatric respiratory and environmental medicine has supported the claim saying ‘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.’

Other professionals such as PE teachers agree with the claims. Mark Bergin who teaches at a primary school in east London stated that he believes he has seen a noticeable increase in pupils using asthma pumps in his last decade of teaching.

The report concluded that out of the 94 sites tested in England, over a quarter (25) had air pollution levels that exceeded those recommended from the World Health Organisation. And a further 52 sites came close to the limits set by the World Health Organisation.

Perry Park, Birmingham, was the 3rd most polluted of the tested sites in Sheffield, Nottingham, London, Birmingham and Salford, with a yearly mean level of 50 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide a cubic metre of air. The World Health Organisation recommends a safe level of 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide a cubic metre of air.

The training grounds of Ridgeway Rovers, where David Beckham once played, and Alpha & Omega FC, Raheem Sterling’s youth team, were found to have fine particulate matter levels of 11, again this is above the World Health Organisation limits.

St Augustine’s Hall, home of the Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets athletics club, had the highest air pollution levels out of those assessed, with 67 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide a cubic metre of air.

Such high levels of air pollution has led to people demanding cleaner air especially in densely populated areas. Much like the unknown effects of smoking, maybe the same will be said about current air pollution levels in the future when the currently unknown dangerous side effects will be unearthed.

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