"Even the healthiest people – athletes – can be affected by poor air quality," says Rachel Filippini, executive director of
, the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Educating athletes and everyone else about air-quality issues, and what they can do to improve them, formed the impetus for GASP's first Clean Air Dash and Festival on Oct. 19 in the South Side Riverfront Park. It's a 5K run along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, with a festival featuring the Venture Outdoors climbing wall, yoga demonstrations, pumpkin painting and a Pittsburgh Passion obstacle course.
Also supporting the Clean Air Dash is the local Breathe Project
coalition, funded by the Heinz Endowments.
Carnegie Mellon University’s mobile laboratory, dubbed Community Health: Air Pollution in Pittsburgh or CHAPP, will make its debut at the event. "It's a way of them taking a very sophisticated laboratory out into the community," explains Filippini. "Air quality has been improving over the years but we still have high levels of fine particulates, ground-level ozone and hazardous air pollutants."
Fine particulates come from diesel vehicles as well as from coal-fired power plants, coke-making facilities and wood burning. "They are still a significant problem – probably of greatest concern because they are so pervasive and come from so many sources and are still relatively high when compared to other parts of the country. And they are linked to so many health concerns," including asthma and other respiratory problems, as well as strokes and heart attacks.
Runners, for instance, can minimize their exposure to pollution by enjoying their sport far from main thoroughfares and rush hours, as well as earlier in the day. And everyone can become an air-quality champion, she adds, by writing letters about pollution solutions to their elected officials, attending hearings on environmental issues, and changing their behavior – from riding to walking, or from private to public transportation.
"There is a lot to do in achieving cleaner air," Filipinni concludes, "and we all have a role to play achieving that goal."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rachel Filippini, GASP