Ambient air pollution and human performance

Jamie T. Mullins, associate professor, is the author of a new paper titled "Ambient air pollution and human performance: Contemporaneous and acclimatization effects of ozone exposure on athletic performance" published in the Health Economics journal

Despite dramatic improvements in air quality over recent decades, Mullins' research finds that ozone continues to harm populations across the United States. The analysis, which links more than 1.2 million competitive outcomes from NCAA and NAIA Track & Field competitions between 2005 to 2013 with measures of ambient air pollution and weather conditions, reveals that negative performance effects of ozone on the day of competition are discernible, even among the fit, young, and highly selected population of intercollegiate athletes. The results suggest that even exposures to the low levels of ambient ozone common throughout the developed world today are associated with physiological damage in nearby populations, which in turn imposes costs on the impacted individuals and society more broadly through reductions in well-being, increased health care expenditures, and reduced productive capacity.

The paper further presents evidence that air quality conditions in the days prior to competition at athletes’ training facilities interact with conditions at the time and place of competition, underscoring the complexity of the exposure effects of ambient air pollution and suggesting that controlling the variability – in addition to mean levels – of ambient ozone is critical to effectively addressing the negative impacts of the pollutant.

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