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To: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Airtel India
This is not the time for Delhi Half Marathon
As organisers and sponsors of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Airtel India must:
1. Postpone the Marathon to a time when air quality in Delhi is within safety limits: sometime in March 2018 when the winter smog would have passed, and overall air quality would be more healthy for runners to participate.
2. Issue Health Advisories detailing the exact extent of lung and brain damage that runners risk experiencing if they participate without proper precautions.
3. Provide Air Masks for Runners
It is a well established fact that regular exercise can improve brain health, and growing research suggests that the brain-deprived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a neurotropin, plays a key role in the process. However, increasing research also shows that exposure to air pollution can have adverse effects on the brain as well as lungs.
Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world with air quality levels 4-5 times more than WHO limits most of the time. During winters the Delhi air gets even more toxic because of crop burning in the neighbouring states, continued emissions from surrounding thermal power plants as well as other weather conditions. In the last few days, Delhi's air quality levels have dipped sharply, with many air monitoring stations showing PM levels above 1,000 which is 20 times the safety limits.
While most doctors advise not to even step out in this polluted air, Airtel organising a Half Marathon in this gas chamber is a foolish and criminal idea. The awareness levels of impact of breathing polluted air is extremely low among runners, The least they can do is issue a health advisory and precautions that need to be taken by the runners on race day.
Why is this important?
The intake of air increases considerably when we exercise, because we take deeper and more frequent breaths. An athlete running at 70 percent of VO2 max (roughly equivalent to easy running pace) for about three hours inhales the same volume of air as a sedentary person would over the course of two days.
Heavy metals and carcinogens, however, cannot be metabolized by the liver and do remain in the body. Athletes who train in cities accumulate higher levels of lead in their blood than those who train in rural areas.
The respiratory effects of particulate matter—matter suspended in the atmosphere—can be chronic. Increased particulate concentration leads to more frequent severe respiratory symptoms for asthmatics and non asthmatics alike. “Individuals with pre-existing respiratory and/or cardiac disorders are at a risk of acute effects from exposure to particles. The effects can range from changes in lung function through increased symptoms and days of restricted activity to hospital admission and premature mortality.”