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Olympics-London pollution may hinder athletes

LONDON, July 26 (Reuters) – London‘s poor air quality could

cause problems for Olympic athletes trying to break world

records if a summer heat wave continues, British scientists said

on Thursday as levels of pollution hit their highest levels

since 2006.

The London Olympics has struggled with an array of teething

problems in the run up to the Games, from security and transport

concerns to the threat of union strikes. At one stage, even

chilly wet weather looked like it might spoil the show.

But on the eve of the Games, temperatures and levels of

ozone pollution have soared, breaking a World Health

Organisation guideline and potentially causing breathing

difficulties for athletes, King’s College University researchers

said.

” won’t be able to get enough oxygen in the body

to perform at the highest level. What that means is they

probably won’t be breaking any records under these conditions,”

Professor Frank Kelly, Director of King’s College London’s

Environmental Research Group, told Reuters.

“They’re not ideal for athletics and certainly not for long

distance events,” he added.

The British government issued an air quality warning for

ozone levels on Wednesday after ozone concentration in parts of

southern England reached over 190 micrograms per cubic metre.

The World Health Organisation guideline is 100.

Athletes are thought to be especially vulnerable because

they breathe in lots of air very quickly over many hours, said

Dr Gary Fuller, a senior lecturer in air quality measurement at

King’s College.

Even non-Olympians may notice the pollution levels.

“Probably about 20 percent of the healthy population will

feel some tightening of the chest as they go about daily normal

activities,” said Kelly.

“If people are involved in any sort of exercise, they’re

probably going to feel even more effects.”

Government officials said most people were not affected by

short term peaks in ozone but those with existing heart or lung

conditions may experience increased symptoms.

The increase in ozone levels was caused by searing

temperatures heating up traffic and industrial pollutants and

the hot air re-circulating slowly across densely populated south

east England and western Europe.

A cooler front is expected to arrive in Britain in time for

the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Friday.

(Reporting By Sophie Kirby; editing by Toby Davis)

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