By PETER TSIGARIS
Kamloops is “Canada’s Tournament Capital” (CTC). Surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes, grasslands, and forests, our city is a part of Super, Natural British Columbia’s beauty. Outdoor recreational activities and sports comprise a big part of what life in Kamloops is all about.
Activities include, but are not limited to, baseball, basketball, biking, climbing, fishing, football, golf, hiking, hockey, jogging, lacrosse, swimming, skating, skiing, soccer, snow shoeing, tennis, and walking. To be healthy and active in the outdoors, people need to breathe clean air. How will our outdoor recreation activities change if a huge open pit mine is approved to operate next to a city of 90,000 people? What impact does a deteriorating air quality have on people who participate in outdoor recreational activities and in tournaments?
A recent study by Andreas Lichter, Nico Pestel and Eric Sommer (2015), presented at the 2016 Royal Economic Society’s Annual Conference, provides evidence that air pollution affects the productivity of professional soccer players in Germany (Bundesliga).
These researchers used a player’s total number of passes per match as a measure of productivity. Productivity data were collected from all 1771 soccer players in 2956 matches and 32 different stadiums from 1999 to 2011. Air pollution data were measured by the concentration of PM10 (i.e., particles in the air that are one-seventh the width of a human hair or smaller) and ground-level ozone, which is created by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight.
Lichter and colleagues (2015) found a negative and non-linear effect of ambient air pollution on the players’ productivity. The impact starts to materialize at around 20 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) for hourly values of PM10. The researchers also found that older players are impacted more, as are those who have an additional physical burden.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the annual average PM10 for Kamloops in 2013 was 16 µg/m3. The historical annual average from 1997-2008 as measured via the older TEOM monitoring instrument at the Brocklehurst station – a type of instrument known to significantly underestimate the annual average PM10 by at least 4 µg/m3 – was 15.2 µg/m3 (the WHO guideline for PM10 is 20 µg/m3).
The B.C. Ministry of the Environment (BC MOE) stopped measuring PM10 in July of 2009, and instead started measuring PM2.5 (i.e., particles in the air that are 1/30th of the width of a human hair or smaller) at the downtown Federal Building. However for the health and productivity of the residents of Kamloops, B.C. MOE should start monitoring PM10 at the Federal Building in addition to PM2.5.
Kamloops’ current annual average air quality as measured by PM2.5 exceeds the B.C. guideline of 8 µg/m3. The hourly PM2.5 in Kamloops exceeded 8 µg/m3 in 3344 hours of 2015 (38.2 percent of the time). It exceeded 15 µg/m3 in 978 hours (11 percent of the time).
In other words, our air quality is at the borderline of surpassing the WHO guidelines for PM2.5 and PM10 if any new major source of pollution is added to our air shed.
There is ample evidence showing that a deteriorating air quality will result in increased risk of premature mortality and increased morbidity. The recent study by Lichter and colleagues indicates that air pollution affects the productivity of professional soccer players. These players are considered to be in top physical shape, and yet air pollution still affects their productivity. It is very likely that increased air pollution will affect the productivity of amateur players, including younger athletes (with their developing lungs), possibly even at lower levels of air pollution than 20 µg/m3 of PM10.
If our air quality deteriorates further, the productivity and health of amateur and professional players alike - from the Kamloops Youth Soccer Association to the B.C. Lions - will be affected, and we will lose opportunities to host tournaments – and we likely lose our well-established reputation as Canada’s Tournament Capital.
To reiterate, for the health and productivity of the residents of Kamloops, I urge the authorities to start measuring again PM10 at the valley bottom.
Lichter, Andreas, Nico Pestel, and Eric Sommer. "Productivity Effects of Air Pollution: Evidence from Professional Soccer." IZA Discussion Paper No. 8964 (2015).
Peter Tsigaris is a Thompson Rivers University professor.