Development of Decision Support Tools for Assessing the Significance of Exposure of Athletes to Air Pollution: A Scoping Study for Scottish Government

Julien S. Baker, Lon Kilgore, Andrew Hursthouse, John Gulliver, Yang Wang

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This pilot study reports the results of work to evaluate the potential of the application of open source GIS-based software tools for the spatial prediction of individual exposure to air pollution. The context of this work is in relation to the potential impact on performance of elite athletes exposed to air quality in the Glasgow area. It assesses the viability of a decision support tool (DST) linking athletic performance and air quality with the intention to provide support for planning of low exposure routes for training and competitive events, specifically in relation to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and more widely in the long term management urban environments.

In the absence of suitable GIS emission inventory we provide details of the application of the decision support tool based on a coarse scale 2001 PM10 land use regression model for the UK developed by Imperial College London and others. The tool was developed to provide the ability to
search and select routes of low exposure across Glasgow and further development of functionality has been identified. This development is limited by the absence of up to date, high resolution emission models for particulate matter in the Glasgow area.

Primary data collection of personal exposure to black carbon (using a personal aethalometer device), to investigate the link between air quality and athletic performance was undertaken for a small cohort of elite athletes training in the Glasgow area. A number of training sessions were assessed between January-April 2012 in north Glasgow, and average suburban exposure levels between 1,500 and 3,600 ng/m3 were obtained for ~hour long evening training sessions. These levels compare to
4,000-5,000 ng/m3 average exposure for cyclists during afternoon peak traffic in the training area and 7,000 – 9,000 ng/m3 average exposure during a suburban car commute in evening rush hour traffic. The statistical validity of comparisons between BC exposure and athlete performance was
limited by the number of consistent recruit performance data-exposure pairs, but appeared that there may be a measureable link between peak ventilation flow and blood O2 even at low exposures and requires further exploration.

The pilot study also identifies a tangible and cost effective opportunity to provide full functionality of the DST and protocols. It identifies directions for further data collection to provide robust statistical assessment of the link between athletic performance and air quality.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of the West of Scotland
Commissioning bodyThe Scottish Government
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2013


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