Several researchers have studied the effects of air quality on health and athletic performance. The conclusion, a strong correlation between the different factors. At least, this has been suggested by studies such as that conducted by Guo & Fu (1), which analysed 56 marathons held in China during 2014 and 2015. For example, one of the conclusions was that an average marathon runner would need 12 more minutes to cross the finish line when pollution is high, similar to that recorded during the 2014 Beijing marathon.
However, pollution is a factor that varies throughout the day and along the race route. After all, its level is influenced by aspects such as traffic density, weather conditions or solar radiation. Thus, as a recent research study by Yale University shows, the formation of secondary organic aerosols, which are key to the concentration of PM2.5 particles, increase with solar radiation and ambient temperature (2). There are other emission sources in addition to this particulate matter, such as particles generated by tyres or brake wear.
World Athletics, formerly the IAAF, is aware of the consequences of pollution. For this reason, in 2018 and in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme, it launched an awareness campaign to highlight the value of air quality in stadiums and sports events. The purpose was to monitor the effects of air quality on health and athletic performance of the athletes and the general population.
Continuous, real-time measurement enables patterns to be established as well as the analysis of the best times to train or compete. In this way, many athletic events could be avoided during the worst time of the day, as Dr Paolo Emilio Adami, Director of the Health and Science Department of World Athletics, expressed in 2018.