Rio preparations highlight challenge of slums, pollution

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Challenges faced by Brazil to reduce pollution and upgrade the slums of Rio de Janeiro prior to the August 2016 Summer Olympics illustrates the struggles faced when trying to protect the respiratory health of approximately a billion people living in slums globally, Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said July 7, 2016 in an online Lancet Respiratory Medicine article.

“The built environment, or lack thereof, is causing a constant assault on their health,” Allen said. Respiratory health is adversely impacted by poorly ventilated, densely occupied spaces that create conditions conducive to the transmission of TB and other infectious diseases. The poorly ventilated spaces allow indoor pollution to build up from biomass fuel or other cooking fuels. Indoor pollution from cooking “far exceeds” outdoor air pollution, even in some of the most polluted cities, Allen said. “It is one of the leading causes of disease globally.”

More than 10,500 athletes and about 500,000 visitors are expected to attend the summer games. Brazil had pledged to Olympic organizers to improve conditions in Rio’s hillside slums, which have one of the world’s highest homicide rates. About one-fourth of Rio residents are estimated to live in slums, according to the article.