Drop In Pollution During 2008 Beijing Olympics Boosted Residents’ Health
By Juliana Chan | Health & Medicine
May 17, 2012
Using the 2008 Beijing Olympics as their laboratory, researchers have found biological evidence that even a short-term reduction in air pollution exposure improves one’s cardiovascular health.
AsianScientist (May 17, 2012) – Using the 2008 Beijing Olympics as their laboratory, researchers from the University of Southern California have found biological evidence that even a short-term reduction in air pollution exposure improves one’s cardiovascular health.
The results of their study appear this week in the medical journal, Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Beijing is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and the Chinese government had proposed to reduce pollution levels to be comparable to other Olympic host cities,” said senior author Prof. Junfeng (Jim) Zhang, professor of environmental and global health at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
“We wanted to take advantage of such a huge intervention and look at what happens to people biologically.”
In 2008, Beijing – the Chinese capital city which is plagued by chronic air pollution – was awarded the Summer Olympics after promising to improve air quality for the duration of the event.
Spending US$17 billion on environmental cleanup, the government shut down factories and limited automobile traffic from July 20 to September 17 to encompass the entire Olympic (August 8-24) and Paralympic (September 6-17) games. These pollution control measures were subsequently relaxed after the Paralympics.
Zhang’s team, which included scientists from the University of Rochester, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Peking University in Beijing, recruited 125 male and female resident doctors who worked at a central Beijing hospital, all of whom were non-smokers and disease-free.
The participants, whose average age was 24, visited the clinic six times: twice prior to the air pollution controls, twice while the pollution controls were in play, and twice after the games had ended.
The researchers examined biomarkers for systemic inflammation and blood clotting, as well as heart rate and blood pressure.
During the Olympics, they observed statistically significant reductions in Von Willebrand factor and soluble CD62P levels, both of which are associated with blood coagulation, among the study participants. Soluble CD62P and systolic blood pressure levels also increased significantly after the Olympics.
These changes indicate that exposure to higher air pollution levels are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular problems, said Zhang, suggesting an immediate health benefit when air pollution levels are lowered.
“We believe this is the first major study to clearly demonstrate that changes in air pollution exposure affect cardiovascular disease mechanisms in healthy, young people,” Zhang said.
The article can be found at: Rich DQ et al. (2012) Association between changes in air pollution levels during the Beijing Olympics and biomarkers of inflammation and thrombosis in healthy young adults.
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