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Beijing Winter Olympic Could See Dangerous Air Pollution Levels

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The Olympic Tower is seen behind a a barricade that delimitates the area not accessible to the general public, that will host Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Olympic Park on January 23, 2022 in Beijing, China.

The Olympic Tower is seen behind a a barricade that delimitates the area not accessible to the general public, that will host Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Olympic Park on January 23, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Photo: Andrea Verdelli (Getty Images)

China faced concerns about air pollution in the run up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Though drastic steps were taken to quickly reduce pollution levels, those games saw worse particulate air pollution than any other game on record up until that point, according to a 2009 study conducted by scientists at Oregon State University and Peking University. Their analysis determined levels of coarse particulate matter were higher than what was considered safe by the World Health Organization about 81% of the time.

Still, there were measurable benefits. According to a 2012 study conducted by University of Rochester researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association, drastic action to reduce pollution by China in the months leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympics resulted in a 60% reduction in sulfur dioxide, a 48% carbon monoxide reduction, and a 43 reduction in nitrogen dioxide. That pollution reduction reportedly correlated with short-term declines in health issues associated with cardiovascular disease.

Another paper cited by the Chicago Policy Review meanwhile estimated that the drastic cutback in pollution ahead of the 2008 Games may have prevented about 196,000 premature deaths. Unfortunately, anti-pollution efforts loosened in the months following the event.

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