The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has called for the cancellation of Airtel’s Delhi Half Marathon in view of the alarmingly high levels of air pollution. “There is need for immediate cancellation of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon to be held at 7 a.m on Sunday, November 19, 2017 in view of the alarmingly high levels of air pollution in the capital,” the IMA said in a statement. The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi has been ranging from very unhealthy to hazardous over the last few days, with pollution weighing much beyond the alarmingly high levels of 400-450 on the AQI at many places. The safe range for PM2.5 is 60 micrograms per cubic meter as per Indian standards and 25 units as per international norms.

“Delhi has been experiencing high air pollution levels in the past days. The air quality is particularly poor in the early morning when pollution is extremely high. This is also the time when the proposed half marathon is scheduled to start,” said K.K Agarwal, President of IMA. Stating that air pollution not only affects the performance of the runner, he said the dangerously high pollution levels could have disastrous health consequences, even for healthy participants, including the volunteers involved in organising the event. “There is scientific evidence to show that poor air quality can aggravate asthma or other existing lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). High PM2.5 levels can increase BP and can also increase the risk of acute cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke,” said Agarwal.

“Also, patients of heart disease are at a risk of sudden cardiac death. Hence, we demand that the event be cancelled immediately and postponed to a later date when air pollution levels are better.” The IMA statement also cited many cases across the world when marathons and other sports events have been cancelled due to poor air quality, including the USA, Malaysia and Singapore. “If the AQI is above 100 units, it is prudent for race administrators to warn participants and volunteers, particularly those with lung conditions, about the potential risk,” said the statement.

The IMA also warned children against outdoor activities as their lungs could get affected. Earlier in the day, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced that primary schools in the city will remain closed on Wednesday due to alarming pollution levels. Besides, all outdoor activities in schools, including morning and afternoon assemblies, have been suspended.