Athletes line up to spread the message ‘Every breath counts’

OLYMPIAN DAVID Rudisha expressed his support for the Every Breath Counts campaign which released the results of a recent poll of 4,000 people.

As air pollution reaches epic proportions around the world and is believed to cause seven million deaths a year, the new campaign is launched this week, revealing for the first time the depth of public sentiment and growing calls for clean air. on three continents.

According to new research from World Athletics, the international governing body for athletics, three-quarters of people want to see governments and companies stepping up their targets and oversight to tackle air pollution.

The survey – which surveyed people in the UK, US, France and India – finds nearly two-thirds of people think governments are not taking serious enough action to tackle air pollution. the air.

With 83% of people believing that access to clean air is a human right, there is a clear consensus that the air pollution crisis is a matter of social and climate justice.

In response, World Athletics is launching a new campaign backed by international athletes and researchers, to mobilize people everywhere to demand stronger action on air pollution.

The Every Breath Counts campaign invites citizens around the world to sign the Clean Air Declaration, which calls on local and national governments and businesses to urgently agree to tougher targets and increased monitoring of air pollution. air in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

Sebastian Coe, Chairman of World Athletics, said: “Athletics has always been about striving to do your best, and this campaign is about demanding better. I want to live in a world where everyone can breathe clean air.

Sebastien Coe

“It’s a simple request, but unfortunately it’s a race against time to get there. As a runner, I want to make sure that future generations can experience the same freedom and joy that I have felt throughout my life. Right now we have a golden opportunity to come together to call for the change we need to see in the world. Join the race for clean air before it’s really too late.”

The ability to exercise is at stake

Rising obesity rates, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, poor diets and limited access to nutritious foods are negatively impacting global health outcomes. Despite the need for exercise greater than ever, polluted air puts the 1.4 billion people who run regularly at risk of serious health problems.

World Athletics has been campaigning on air pollution since launching its Air Quality Project in 2018. The project has created a real-time global air quality database from monitors installed in stadiums and venues in Monaco, Addis Ababa, Sydney, Mexico City and Yokohama. . The data collected makes it possible to identify the sources of local air pollution and the best solutions to combat it.

Brian McCullough, Ph.D., director of the Center for Sport Management Research and Education at Texas A&M University, said, “This campaign responds to a desperate need to encourage action to protect and preserve the essential aspect of maintaining of life – the air we breathe.

“Climate action is possible by harnessing the power of sport. It is time for sports organisations, athletes, participants and concerned citizens to demand climate action to protect the natural environment, sport and our way of life. of life.

Some of the world’s greatest athletes have already joined the campaign and are calling for urgent action to tackle the global health threat posed by air pollution.

Kajsa Bergqvist, three-time high jump world champion and Olympic bronze medalist, said: “I’m very lucky to have grown up in Sweden, which is one of the least polluted countries in the world. But sport is first and foremost about fairness, and it is deeply unfair that athletes in many parts of the world are hampered by poor air quality and face serious health issues in their pursuit of success. athletic.

“It is imperative that we come together as a global community of athletes – and people – to demand clean air everywhere.”

David Rudisha, a retired Kenyan middle-distance runner and Olympic champion, added: “As an athlete, I know the importance of clean air cannot be underestimated.

“In Kenya, ambient air pollution is the fourth biggest risk factor leading to death and disability combined.

“It saddens me to think about how this will harm the next generation of budding athletes and how this is already destroying the health of our people. I hope others will join us in campaigning for urgent action to improve air quality.

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Naomi C. Amerson