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Air quality monitor installed at Sydney stadium

The IAAF has launched its first air quality monitor in the Southern Hemisphere, at Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre in Australia.

The installation is part of a pilot programme to measure air quality at stadia around the world.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe, accompanied by Athletics Australia President Mark Arbib, switched on the device, the third installed at athletics stadiums as part of the IAAF’s five-year partnership with UN Environment, which is designed to create greater global awareness and promote action on air pollution.

The ultimate aim of the programme is to develop an air quality monitoring network linking 1,000 IAAF-certified tracks around the world. Coe said:

We are all advocating and promoting more active lifestyles across the age spectrum and in all communities in order to fight the increasing sedentary lifestyles which in themselves cause heart disease, diabetes and other prolonged medical illnesses.

But with over half the world’s population living in urban areas in 2015 and rising to a predicted 60% by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) – that is double the 30% of the world’s population who lived in urban areas back in 1950 – it is vital that we ensure we are not swapping one set of serious health risks for another. In the same way as the quality of water we drink is vital, it is high time that we are all equally demanding about the quality of air we breathe.

The IAAF’s goal is to help the global efforts of organisations like UN Environment and WHO by gathering data, conducting studies and helping to raise awareness and educate people on air quality.

The IAAF’s ambition is to install a clean air monitor in all 1,000 IAAF-certified track around the world over the next five years in partnership with UNEP.

The data will be available to the cities the tracks are in and, in time, will enable the IAAF to conduct meaningful performance studies with athletes who train and compete on these tracks and in these stadiums and use this information to benefit communities. Coe added:

We are installing air quality monitors in six athletics stadiums in different parts of the world – in Monaco (installed in September), Addis Ababa (November), Sydney today and Mexico City, South America and Japan being installed over the next two months.

We will run this pilot for the best part of a year to understand more about the data we can collect and, in that time, we hope to conduct one or two controlled studies on athlete performance and how their performances correlate to the quality of air they are breathing.

The monitoring devices, produced by the Spanish firm Kunak, will collect real time air quality data, measuring levels of several pollutants including PM2.5 (particles), PM10, O3 and NO2, which research shows are the four main elements that have an impact on the performance of athletes.