The meaty link between a city’s football matches and its foul air (Nature)


Chilean fans’ fervour for grilling leads to pollution spikes when the national team plays.

The skies of Santiago grow murky during the national football team’s biggest matches — because fans fire up their barbecues.

Local officials have suspected that smoke rising from charcoal- and wood-fired grills contributes to spikes in Santiago’s air pollution. To investigate that theory, Rémy Lapere at the Polytechnic Institute of Paris and his colleagues looked at air-quality data from 2014 to 2016 and found that the chemical make-up of the pollution matched that from grills but not that from other sources, such as traffic.

The researchers also found that pollution peaked sharply on certain winter days: those on which the Chilean football team had big games, such as during the World Cup or the Copa América tournament. The highest peaks occurred during kick-off hour on days before non-working days.

Such pollution spikes last only a few hours but can send people to hospital with breathing difficulties. The findings could help officials developing plans to fight air pollution, the authors say.