What the Olympics teach us about urban health

During the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, incidents of hospitalization for asthma declined by 41% according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The air quality in Beijing over the past two weeks has apparently been better than it has in decades.  One day had an index reading of 12, down from an all time high in December of last year of 500 (according to this report on Price Tags)

In Atlanta, the city dramatically curtailed private automobile use.  In Beijing both private automobiles and manufacturing were shut down in order to improve the air quality.

What all this suggests to me is that irrespective of concerns about global warming, our urbanizing planet needs to cut pollution now simply to look after the health of its citizens.  Or, if you want to think about the economy, consider the lost productivity from people unable to breathe.

2 comments

  1. lichanos says:

    Right on! There are so many reasons to reduce fossil fuel burning. I’m still not convinced that Global Warming is one of them…

  2. Ian says:

    I agree – there’s so much focus on cutting carbon that people forget local air quality is a much bigger issue for most of us in North America. And when you improve air quality, you feel the benefits in your city directly, whereas cutting carbon is just a drop in the global bucket.

    In Ontario we have a provincial Air Quality Rating service that has improved air quality forecasting and tracking: http://www.airqualityontario.com/reports/summary.cfm

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