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Air quality to be measured during Olympics

Air quality to be measured during Olympics
Heavy pollution virtually shrouds the Olympic National Stadium, just a few weeks before the games begin, in Beijing on July 10, 2008. (UPI Photo/Stephen Shaver) | License Photo

BEIJING, July 22 (UPI) -- Thousands will watch Olympians soar to records in Beijing this summer while U.S. scientists will record air particulates and their possible changes.

Cornell University Assistant Professor Max Zhang is leading a project to study air quality before, during and after the Olympic Games, which begin Aug. 8, the Ithaca, N.Y. university said Tuesday in a news release.

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"I am interested in how these particles are made and how they disperse -- how they transport and transform in the air," Zhang said.

Scientists have been studying adverse effects of breathing urban air pollutants for years, but Zhang said more efficient combustion engines mean exhaust particles have gotten smaller and more easily absorbed by the body.

Zhang and an assistant went to Beijing last year for initial measurements of airborne particles in several points in the city, using real-time analytical instruments to capture the changes in particle size and concentrations in a matter of seconds.

Zhang plans to repeat tests in Beijing during the Olympics, and then again a year later. The study is supported by Cornell's Jeffrey Sean Lehman Fund for Scholarly Exchange with China and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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"The cities are my laboratory," he said.

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