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Pollution in China’s Air Creates Concern About Beijing Olympic Games


Also: A study finds that people who stop smoking often influence other smokers to quit. Transcript of radio broadcast:

VOICE ONE:

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember. On our program this week, we will tell how pollution in China’s air is creating concerns about the Beijing Olympic Games. We also will tell how people who stop smoking may help others who want to stop. And, we tell about a United Nations report on treatment of AIDS and the virus that causes the disease.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Chinese officials are making final preparations for the Beijing Olympic Games. The games will officially open on August eighth. Recently, news agencies reported about air quality problems in China's capital. Air pollution levels rose sharply in Beijing late last month. The pollution was so bad that the city's environmental protection agency warned people with breathing problems to avoid outdoor activities. Officials blamed a sandstorm for the poor air quality.

VOICE TWO:

Air pollution can be a serious issue for people who compete in athletic events. Some doctors have urged Olympic athletes not to train in China because it could be harmful to their health. For example, Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie has the breathing disorder asthma. He has chosen not to take part in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics for health reasons.

The International Olympic Committee has said it will cancel or postpone Olympic events, such as the marathon, if the air quality is too dangerous for athletes.

VOICE ONE:

Some international organizations have said the air in Beijing is among the most polluted in the world. The air pollution has many causes, including automobiles and burning of coal as a fuel. Chinese officials are attempting to solve these problems by decreasing the amount of traffic and ordering the use of natural gas instead of coal. Beijing officials have also ordered surrounding areas to decrease their levels of pollution.

China is also using weather satellites to help predict weather conditions. The weather can influence air pollution levels because of the effects of wind and rain.

VOICE TWO:

But one weather expert says pollution might not be the biggest problem facing the Olympic athletes. Doug Charko measures weather conditions for the Canadian Olympic team. He studied weather conditions in Beijing last summer to predict what Canadian athletes could expect at the games. His study found that heat and humidity could be more of a problem than air quality. Humidity levels measure wetness, especially in the air.

Mister Charko also says efforts to reduce pollution levels in China have only resulted in small changes. He noted that Beijing has a population of eighteen million people. With so many people, he said, it is very difficult to limit the large amounts of pollution being released.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

You are listening to SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. With Steve Ember, I'm Faith Lapidus in Washington.

(MUSIC):

Would you like to stop smoking? Knowing other people who are stopping may help. A recent study shows that people who stop smoking often have an influence on others around them, making them more likely to quit. The study was published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine.

VOICE TWO:

Two American researchers led the study on smoking. They are Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University and James Fowler of the University of California at San Diego. They examined the smoking and social customs of twelve thousand people over a thirty-two year period. The information used in the study was collected between nineteen seventy-one and two thousand three. The twelve thousand individuals were part of a larger research project known as the Framingham Heart Study.

VOICE ONE:

The researchers found that people often quit smoking in groups. Married people had strong effects on their partners. Smokers who had a husband or wife who quit were sixty-seven percent less likely to continue smoking. Those who had a friend who quit were thirty-six percent less likely to keep smoking. And those with a brother or sister who quit were twenty-five percent less likely to remain a smoker. Even people who did not know each other but had connections to the same people were affected by one another.

The study also found that individuals with higher levels of education had more influence on other people than those with less education.

VOICE TWO:

The United States has an estimated forty-four million smokers. But the number of Americans who smoke has decreased during the past thirty years. Researchers found that smokers and non-smokers began forming separate social groups during the period. Cigarette or tobacco use has become less socially acceptable because of increased understanding of the health risks linked to smoking.

The finding could help public health campaigns to be more successful by directing information to social groups of people instead of individuals.

VOICE ONE:

The researchers say smokers who do not quit could find themselves with fewer friends and social connections. Because it is becoming less socially acceptable to smoke, people who do will feel increasing pressure to stop smoking.

Steven Schroeder is a professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. He says the study is good news because it shows that more smokers are giving in to pressure from those around them to quit. But he says smokers should not be condemned because they have trouble giving up cigarettes.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Finally, the United Nations says almost three million people in developing countries are receiving drugs for HIV -- the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is an increase of almost one million people from two years ago. Still, the hope was to reach three million by two thousand five.

The World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and UNAIDS reported the numbers earlier this month. W.H.O. Director-General Margaret Chan welcomed the progress. But she noted that antiretroviral therapy, or ART, alone will not solve the problem.

MARGARET CHAN: "For every two persons we manage, to provide them with ART, another five persons get infected. So again, we cannot underestimate the power of prevention."

VOICE ONE:

The new U.N. report says almost seventy-five percent of people receiving H.I.V. drugs are in Africa. Sixty percent of those with H.I.V. in Africa are women.

Antiretroviral therapy suppresses the virus. The drugs help patients live longer without developing AIDS. The disease robs the body of its natural defenses against infections.

An estimated nine million seven hundred thousand people were in need of H.I.V. treatment last year in areas with low and medium-wages. The report says that by the end of the year, just over thirty percent of them were getting it.

VOICE TWO:

The U.N. report says price reductions are a main reason why more people with H.I.V., including more pregnant women, are receiving the drugs. Also, supply systems have been redesigned to better serve individual countries and smaller health centers. And treatments are simpler than in the past.

But the report notes that huge barriers remain in dealing with the AIDS problem. Getting patients to continue with their treatment is difficult. There are still large numbers of people who do not get tested for H.I.V. And, there are many others who get tested too late and die within months.

VOICE ONE:

The U.N. report also says there is not enough joint treatment of H.I.V. and the related infections that most often kill AIDS patients. Tuberculosis, for example, is the leading cause of death among AIDS patients in Africa.

Yet another problem is the lack of trained health care workers in the developing world. Many move to wealthy nations for better pay and living conditions.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Brianna Blake, Elizabeth Stern and Caty Weaver. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Faith Lapidus. We would like to hear from you. Write to us at Special English, Voice of America, Washington, D-C, two-zero-two-three-seven, U-S-A. Or send electronic messages to special@voanews.com. Join us again at this time next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.


VOICE ONE:

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.

VOICE TWO:
And I'm Steve Ember. On our program this week, we will tell how pollution in China’s air is creating concerns about the Beijing Olympic Games. We also will tell how people who stop smoking may help others who want to stop. And, we tell about a United Nations report on treatment of AIDS and the virus that causes the disease.

VOICE ONE:

Chinese officials are making final preparations for the Beijing Olympic Games. The games will officially open on August eighth. Recently, news agencies reported about air quality problems in China's capital. Air pollution levels rose sharply in Beijing late last month. The pollution was so bad that the city's environmental protection agency warned people with breathing problems to avoid outdoor activities. Officials blamed a sandstorm for the poor air quality.
VOICE TWO:

Air pollution can be a serious issue for people who compete in athletic events. Some doctors have urged Olympic athletes not to train in China because it could be harmful to their health. For example, Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie has the breathing disorder asthma. He has chosen not to take part in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics for health reasons.

The International Olympic Committee has said it will cancel or postpone Olympic events, such as the marathon, if the air quality is too dangerous for athletes.

VOICE ONE:

Some international organizations have said the air in Beijing is among the most polluted in the world. The air pollution has many causes, including automobiles and burning of coal as a fuel. Chinese officials are attempting to solve these problems by decreasing the amount of traffic and ordering the use of natural gas instead of coal. Beijing officials have also ordered surrounding areas to decrease their levels of pollution.

China is also using weather satellites to help predict weather conditions. The weather can influence air pollution levels because of the effects of wind and rain.

VOICE TWO:

But one weather expert says pollution might not be the biggest problem facing the Olympic athletes. Doug Charko measures weather conditions for the Canadian Olympic team. He studied weather conditions in Beijing last summer to predict what Canadian athletes could expect at the games. His study found that heat and humidity could be more of a problem than air quality. Humidity levels measure wetness, especially in the air.

Mister Charko also says efforts to reduce pollution levels in China have only resulted in small changes. He noted that Beijing has a population of eighteen million people. With so many people, he said, it is very difficult to limit the large amounts of pollution being released.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

You are listening to SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. With Steve Ember, I'm Faith Lapidus in Washington.

Would you like to stop smoking? Knowing other people who are stopping may help. A recent study shows that people who stop smoking often have an influence on others around them, making them more likely to quit. The study was published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine.

VOICE TWO:

Two American researchers led the study on smoking. They are Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University and James Fowler of the University of California at San Diego. They examined the smoking and social customs of twelve thousand people over a thirty-two year period. The information used in the study was collected between nineteen seventy-one and two thousand three. The twelve thousand individuals were part of a larger research project known as the Framingham Heart Study.

VOICE ONE:

The researchers found that people often quit smoking in groups. Married people had strong effects on their partners. Smokers who had a husband or wife who quit were sixty-seven percent less likely to continue smoking. Those who had a friend who quit were thirty-six percent less likely to keep smoking. And those with a brother or sister who quit were twenty-five percent less likely to remain a smoker. Even people who did not know each other but had connections to the same people were affected by one another.

The study also found that individuals with higher levels of education had more influence on other people than those with less education.

VOICE TWO:

The United States has an estimated forty-four million smokers. But the number of Americans who smoke has decreased during the past thirty years. Researchers found that smokers and non-smokers began forming separate social groups during the period. Cigarette or tobacco use has become less socially acceptable because of increased understanding of the health risks linked to smoking.

The finding could help public health campaigns to be more successful by directing information to social groups of people instead of individuals.

VOICE ONE:

The researchers say smokers who do not quit could find themselves with fewer friends and social connections. Because it is becoming less socially acceptable to smoke, people who do will feel increasing pressure to stop smoking.

Steven Schroeder is a professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. He says the study is good news because it shows that more smokers are giving in to pressure from those around them to quit. But he says smokers should not be condemned because they have trouble giving up cigarettes.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Finally, the United Nations says almost three million people in developing countries are receiving drugs for HIV -- the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is an increase of almost one million people from two years ago. Still, the hope was to reach three million by two thousand five.

The World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and UNAIDS reported the numbers earlier this month. W.H.O. Director-General Margaret Chan welcomed the progress. But she noted that antiretroviral therapy, or ART, alone will not solve the problem.

MARGARET CHAN: "For every two persons we manage, to provide them with ART, another five persons get infected. So again, we cannot underestimate the power of prevention."

VOICE ONE:

The new U.N. report says almost seventy-five percent of people receiving H.I.V. drugs are in Africa. Sixty percent of those with H.I.V. in Africa are women.

Antiretroviral therapy suppresses the virus. The drugs help patients live longer without developing AIDS. The disease robs the body of its natural defenses against infections.

An estimated nine million seven hundred thousand people were in need of H.I.V. treatment last year in areas with low and medium-wages. The report says that by the end of the year, just over thirty percent of them were getting it.

VOICE TWO:

The U.N. report says price reductions are a main reason why more people with H.I.V., including more pregnant women, are receiving the drugs. Also, supply systems have been redesigned to better serve individual countries and smaller health centers. And treatments are simpler than in the past.

But the report notes that huge barriers remain in dealing with the AIDS problem. Getting patients to continue with their treatment is difficult. There are still large numbers of people who do not get tested for H.I.V. And, there are many others who get tested too late and die within months.

VOICE ONE:

The U.N. report also says there is not enough joint treatment of H.I.V. and the related infections that most often kill AIDS patients. Tuberculosis, for example, is the leading cause of death among AIDS patients in Africa.

Yet another problem is the lack of trained health care workers in the developing world. Many move to wealthy nations for better pay and living conditions.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Brianna Blake, Elizabeth Stern and Caty Weaver. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Faith Lapidus. We would like to hear from you. Write to us at Special English, Voice of America, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U-S-A. Or send electronic messages to special@voanews.com. Join us again at this time next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

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