Environmental Considerations - Air Pollution and Exercise

Pollutants are substances in the environment which lower the environment’s quality. Originally, air pollutants were thought to be only by-products of the industrial revolution. However, many pollutants are produced naturally. For example, volcanoes emit sulfur oxides and ash, and lightning produces ozone.
There are two classifications of air pollutants - primary and secondary. Primary pollutants are produced directly by industrial sources. These include carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur oxides (SO), hydrocarbons, and particulate (ash). Secondary pollutants are created by the primary pollutant’s interaction with the environment. Examples of these include ozone (03), aldehydes, and sulfates. Smog is a combination of primary and secondary pollutants.
Some pollutants have negative effects on the body. For example, carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin in the red blood cells and reduces the amount of oxygen carried in the blood. Ozone and the oxides irritate the air passageways in the lungs, while other pollutants irritate the eyes.
When exercisers in high-pollution areas breathe through the mouth, the nasal mucosa’s ability to remove impurities is bypassed, and many pollutants can be inhaled. This irritates the respiratory tract and makes the person less able to perform aerobically.
The following are some ways to deal with air pollution while exercising:
• Avoid exposure to pollutants before and during exercise, if possible.
• In areas of high ozone concentration, train early in the day and after dark.
• Avoid exercising near heavily traveled streets and highways during rush hours.
• Consult your supporting preventive-medicine activity for advice in identifying or defining training restrictions during periods of heavy air pollution.