Report: Polluted Rio air more dangerous for Olympians than filthy water

With all the concern over the polluted water in Rio de Janeiro, one report says Olympic athletes and spectators should be more concerned with the air.

According to Reuters, Rio's air is dirtier and deadlier than what authorities have portrayed, and the government has failed to deliver on its promise to clean up the air by the start of the 2016 Olympics.

The Rio government has fallen under attack in past weeks after various reports showing high amounts of garbage and raw sewage in bodies of water where athletes are set to compete.

Little attention has been focused on the air, which according to the report, has for years exceeded acceptable levels of particulate matter -- the most dangerous air pollutant.

The air in Rio de Janeiro has been found to contain high levels of pollution. Getty Images

Since 2008, the levels of particulate matter in Rio's air have consistently been two-to-three times over the limit imposed by the World Health Organization.

"This is definitely not 'Olympic air,'" said Paulo Saldiva, a University of Sao Paulo pathologist and member of the WHO committee that set tougher global pollution standards in 2006. "A lot of attention has been paid to Rio's water pollution, but far more people die because of air pollution than the water."

According to the report, thousands die annually in Rio due to complications related to the air, including lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and asthma.

Tania Braga, head of sustainability and legacy for the Rio Olympics organizing committee, countered by stating that other measures of air quality (besides particulate matter) such as nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are well within the WHO's limits.

Air pollution is just the latest issue to make its way into conversation surrounding the Rio Olympics, which begin with the opening ceremony on Friday.

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