Heart Care Foundation of India calls for the immediate Postponement of the Delhi Half Marathon
Air quality in Delhi-NCR has taken a dip again. For the last few days, the air quality has been “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” with the air quality index (AQI) hovering in the “poor” to “very poor” categories.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor, and 401-500 severe.
This deterioration in the air quality has been attributed to change in direction of wind, which is now flowing from stubble burning areas in the neighboring states of Haryana and Punjab.
Various parts of Delhi have shown high AQI; Dwarka Sector 8 recorded an AQI of 333, AQI in RK Puram was 311. Other areas also recorded very high AQI such as Mandir Marg (AQI 233), Sri Aurobindo Marg (AQI 258), Sonia Vihar (AQI 275), Anand Vihar (AQI 297), OKhla Phase 2 (AQI 298), Mundaka (AQI 312) (Central Pollution Control Board, Oct. 9, 1 pm; https://app.cpcbccr.com/AQI_India/)
In view of the prevailing poor air quality, the Heart Care Foundation of India has called for the postponement of the Delhi Half Marathon and postpone it to a later date, when the air quality is better.
The Delhi Half Marathon is scheduled to start from 5.30 am on Sunday, 21st October. This is also the time when pollution levels are likely to be extremely high with poor air quality.
Air pollution is a well-recognized health hazard. The harmful effects of air pollution have been well-documented in literature. Poor air quality can aggravate asthma or other existing lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). High PM2.5 levels can increase the blood pressure and can also increase the risk of acute cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke. Also, patients of heart disease are at a risk of sudden cardiac death.
Air pollution not only affects the performance of the runner, the high pollution levels may have adverse health consequences, even for the healthy participants who are training for the event as well as the organizers and the volunteers involved in the event. Air pollution can cause cough or breathlessness on exertion in healthy individuals. Children are particularly more prone to harmful effects of air pollution as their lungs are still growing. They take in more polluted air into their lungs, which hampers the growth of their lungs leading to breathing problems later on in life.
PM10 has a significant correlation with reduced performance in marathon runners. Under normal breathing conditions, PM10 is filtered through the nose. But, because of mouth breathing during exercise, PM10 is not removed and is instead inhaled in large amounts (Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Mar;42(3):585-91). Hence, runners are at risk of inhaling toxic air pollutants if they participate in the marathon under such conditions.
Marathons and other outdoor sports events have been cancelled in countries like USA, Malaysia, Singapore due to poor air quality. If the AQI is above 100, it is prudent for race administrators to warn participants and volunteers, particularly those with lung conditions, about the potential risk.
The Heart Care Foundation of India appeals to the organizers to take into consideration the air quality at the time of the marathon so that no runner suffers any adverse health effects on account of exposure to hazardous levels of air pollution.