I was astonished to read, not only that organizers held the Beijing Marathon today in severely polluted conditions, but that tens of thousands of runners actually took part regardless! Conditions were so bad as to pose a real danger to health.
- From the BBC: "The WHO says daily pollution levels should not exceed an average of 25 micrograms per cubic metre of fine particulate matter. Yet the US embassy's monitor at one point reported peaks of up to 400 micrograms per cubic metre, which it said would be hazardous if a human was exposed to it over a 24-hour period. Fine particulate matter, the kind of pollution in smoke, damages the body as it moves deep into the lungs and can even enter the bloodstream."
- From the Independent: "Runners were forced to wear face masks as tens of thousands of competitors took part in an international marathon in Beijing under a thick blanket of smog – despite warnings that everyone in the city should avoid outdoor activities. About 30,000 runners were expected to take part in the event on Sunday morning, with the organising committee making 140,000 sponges available at supply stations along the marathon route so runners could 'clean their skin that is exposed to the air,' the Beijing News reported."
- From the Telegraph: "Ying Wei, a 23-year-old runner, admitted his “lung hurt quite badly during and after the race”. Runners had “made an outstanding contribution towards clearing Beijing’s haze” by breathing in the smog, joked Zhi Ri Gang, a user of Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog. “They should be known as human air purifiers!”
You can judge the level of air pollution for yourself from this video report.
I simply can't understand the mindset of the runners. When you know that the particulate levels in the air are up to 16 times more than the maximum recommended limit for health and safety - when the city's own pollution bureau is warning people to stay indoors - how can you possibly justify breathing them deep into your lungs for hours at a time? What's even worse, the particulates are among the most noxious out there - motor vehicle exhaust, factory chimney pollution, etc. Knowing that . . . I'm sorry, but I feel as if these runners and I come from different planets. Have they no conception of reality? Am I wrong for expecting them to have better sense? Readers, what say you?