The Chinese fought hard to gain the right to hold the 2008 summer Olympics in their country. But athletes have a major worry about competing there: air quality, since modern China is a heavily polluted place. If holding the Olympics there can influence China to clear up its air, it will improve pollution in the US as well.

The US Department of Energy and the EPA have been working with Chinese universities to improve the air quality of Beijing and ensure a healthy atmosphere for athletes and spectators. Researcher David Streets says, “Our modeling suggests that emission sources far from Beijing exert a significant influence on Beijing’s air quality. Typical industrial, coal-burning cities within several hundred kilometers of Beijing add to the local pollution. In these areas, emission controls on stationary sources and vehicles are not as stringent as in Beijing, and emissions are high. Each province’s contribution varies dramatically from day to day, depending on wind direction and other meteorological factors.”

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