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NASA Satellite Photos of Rio Show Polluted Air, Adds to Problematic Issues at Olympic Games

Aug 12, 2016 02:54 AM EDT
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The Rio Olympics 2016 is causing quite a buzz not just because of the amazing athleticism, but also for a number of environmental issues. Aside from the green pools allegedly caused by algae, air pollution is another problem in Rio de Janeiro. In satellite images provided by NASA, Rio has elevated levels of polluted air.

Dirty water and the presence of Zika aren't the only environmental issues plaguing Rio. There's also polluted air based on satellite images released by NASA, taken August 2. Satellite images were taken using NASA's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) during Terra Satellite orbit 88426.

According to scientists' interpretation of the satellite images, polluted air in Rio is elevated but is nothing compared to the smog in China. Unlike Rio, China is plagued by polluted air that has reached dangerous levels particularly in Beijing.

Amount of air pollution was measured via aerosol optical depth. This is a measure of how much light from the sun is blocked by particles in the atmosphere. Based on images released by NASA, the optical depth over Rio was slightly elevated in comparison to its surroundings. Values ranged from 0.15 to 0.25, which signals polluted air.

While the polluted air is nothing compared to China, study claims that the air in Rio is deadlier than its water. The study claims that thousands die in Rio due to complications related to the air. Individuals exposed to polluted air have increased risk of getting lunch cancer, asthma, strokes, and heart attacks.

"This is definitely not 'Olympic air. A lot of attention has been paid to Rio's water pollution, but far more people die because of air pollution than the water. You are not obligated to drink water from Guanabara Bay but you must breathe Rio's air," stated Paulo Saldiva, a member of the WHO committee that set global pollution standards in 2006 and a pathologist of the University of Sao Paulo.

Despite the polluted air and water, the Olympics 2016 have still been set in Rio and the games continue to this day.

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