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March 20, 1967

Oxidant Air Pollution and Athletic Performance

Author Affiliations

From the Health Effects Research Program, National Center for Air Pollution Control, US Public Health Service, Cincinnati (Miss Wayne and Dr. Carroll), and the Department of Pediatrics, University of Southern California School of Medicine and the Los Angeles County General Hospital, Los Angeles (Dr. Wehrle).

JAMA. 1967;199(12):901-904. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120120089015

The effect of Los Angeles' oxidizing type of air pollution on athletic performance was studied in 21 competitive meets of high school cross-country track runners from 1959 to 1964. Since running times tend to improve throughout the season, team performance at a meet was evaluated by determining the percent of boys who failed to improve when their running time was compared to that run at the previous meet on the same course. The highest correlation to team performance is that of the oxidant level in the hour before the race. Neither carbon monoxide, temperature, nor humidity shows any relationship to performance. The specificity of the effect to a biologically meaningful time and the very high correlation are convincing evidence of a cause and effect relationship. The mechanism by which oxidants affect performance may be directly physiological or may be decreased motivation due to discomfort.