Supplying the Beijing Olympics

U.S. companies provided environmental, safety, and security equipment for use during the summer games

Billions of people will behold an Olympics of unprecedented size and beauty when opening ceremonies raise the curtain Aug. 8 on Beijing, China, home to 15 million residents. Their water system, air quality, fire protection, and transportation have been improved expressly to showcase this event, and American companies' products are involved in much of this transformation.

Water quality
GE Water & Process Technologies (Trevose, Pa.) installed a full-scale water treatment plant in Dongguang City and supplied a mobile water treatment plant that purifies water for neighboring villages. The company donated both and said this is the first time an advanced mobile water treatment system has been used in China to bring clean water to areas outside the nation's centralized municipal water infrastructure. China has set a goal of providing safe, reliable water supplies by 2015 to more than 300 million people living in rural areas, and GE hopes to provide equipment to achieve that goal, said Jeff Garwood, president and chief executive officer.

Beijing Praxair Inc., an affiliate of Shanghai-based Praxair China, and thus of Praxair Inc. (Danbury, Conn.), signed a contract in March with Beijing Drainage Group Co. Ltd. to be the exclusive supplier of oxygen to three wastewater treatment plants in Beijing that will use membrane filtration, activated carbon adsorption, and an ozone de-color process.

Air quality
Air pollution and the potential impact of Beijing's smoggy air on athletes' health and performance seem to have been the top concern of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games (BOCOG) of the XXIX Olympiad during the runup to the event.

BOCOG said it opened two new subway lines and a new rail line built especially for the games on July 19. This effort was designed to keep about half of Beijing's 3.3 million motor vehicles off the roads.

Official operations began Aug. 1 on the Beijing-Tianjin line, cutting the 75-mile journey from 90 to 30 minutes thanks to the line's CRH (China Railway High-speed) bullet trains, which top out at 220 mph in normal operations but exceeded that speed in test runs.

The Beijing South station is equipped with solar panels on its roof and 24 platforms to cope with what officials foresee as massive future demand for travel. The new, Chinese-built trains, which include soundproof and bulletproof glass, are much wider than equivalent European express trains, said Zhang Shuguang, head of the Railway Ministry's Transport Bureau.

General Electric (Fairfield, Conn.), a Worldwide Partner for the games, was one of the companies that worked with China's Ministry of Railways to introduce the new rail technology.

American Lung Association Offers Health Tips

Before spectators leave for Beijing, the American Lung Association advises all Olympic travelers to plan in advance for any health emergencies that may arise.

Individuals with conditions such as asthma, COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis), heart disease, and diabetes are encouraged to make a doctor's appointment before making the trip.

"Your doctor will be able to help you determine if you will be able to sufficiently tolerate conditions in Beijing," said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the association. "Your doctor will also be able to work with you to develop a disease management plan to ensure the healthiest trip possible. That may include increasing the dosage levels of certain medications while in Beijing."

It is important to be aware of what medical services that will be available to you while in China and how your medical insurance deals with incidents that happen while on international travel.

"To keep healthy while in Beijing, limit or avoid outdoor exercise," said Dr. Edelman. "If you choose to exercise, train early in the day or in the evening. If you feel any discomfort, including coughing or wheezing, you should stop immediately."

"Don't assume face masks are going to solve the problem," said Janice Nolen, an air quality policy analyst for the association. "While N95 face masks may provide some benefit, most commercially available air masks were not designed to protect against all forms of air pollution. For example, they don't protect against gases, like ozone smog, which will be one of the important components of the air in Beijing."

The new Beijing National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, uses a new line of 3M Filtrete Commercial HVAC Filters to clean the air. Installed by The Penn Air Group (Los Angeles, Calif.), a global provider of commercial HVAC system optimization, the filters' nonwoven technology was first used in facial respirators and later migrated into Filtrete filters because of the melt-blown fibers technology's ability to trap minute particles.

Air quality monitoring equipment from TSI Inc. (Shoreview, Minn.) have been used for indoor air quality measurement, spot testing, and a study of ultrafine particles in Beijing's air that will continue throughout the games. The company also provided a filter tester used by the Beijing National Center for Disease Control and Prevention to test first responders' respirators and face masks for possible use during a chemical or terrorist attack.

Health and safety
Beijing banned smoking in public places, including parks, on May 1, and China promised this would be a smoking-free Olympics. Not only did the Beijing fire brigade put several new fire stations in service for these games, but the department also developed and implemented a digital fire response system with help from Tsinghua University and other agencies. The system helps to pinpoint a fire's location, chooses the best route for responders, and dispatches firefighters. All 93 Olympics venues were equipped with this technology by the end of 2007.

MSA China (part of Pittsburgh, Pa.-based MSA) provided self-contained breath apparatuses, thermal imaging cameras, and gas masks to the brigade and supplied fire helmets for use at the games' water sports venue.

A spokesman for the 3M Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Division (St. Paul, Minn.) said the division was among "a number of 3M businesses providing a wide variety of products" to support the games. Personal protective equipment for use in preparation for the games included respiratory, hearing, eye protection, and reflective products. The company did not reveal how much of this equipment it provided.

Food safety
Screening efforts ahead of and during the games included use of DuPont Qualicon's BAX polymerase chain reaction detection system in food safety inspections by the Beijing Municipal Center for Food Safety Monitoring. Indeed, the November 2007 adoption of the Beijing Declaration on Food Safety underscored the concern about this area from China and the rest of the world. The adoption took place at a forum co-sponsored by the World Health Organization, China's Ministry of Health, and China's State Administration for Quality and Safety Inspection and Quarantine. The declaration urges all countries to develop comprehensive programs to improve consumer protection and to actively participate in the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN).

The DuPont (Wilmington, Del.) BAX System enables fast testing for salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, and other pathogens in food samples. The China division of Moody International Inc. (The Woodlands, Texas), also worked with the Beijing municipal government's food safety authorities as technical adviser on a food safety and hygiene management training program for restaurants and caterers. Moody, which said it was the first training service provider accredited by the governmental authority, said the training will extend to more than 50,000 restaurants and 100,000 food safety managers during the next two years, but the first priority was to train the food safety managers for restaurants and 20,000 catering personnel serving the games.

BOCOG will deploy more than 80,000 security personnel and an array of fixed and portable detection devices for these games.

This year, RAE Systems' (San Jose, Calif.) radiation detection and wireless toxic gas monitoring equipment was permanently deployed at the Beijing Capital International Airport. "I think it's become a very unfortunate reality that you have to do atmospheric monitoring at these events," said Bob Durstenfeld, a company spokesman. With at least 10 heads of state and more than 100 corporate chieftains expected to attend the Beijing games, "security is paramount," he added.

Universal Detection Technology (Los Angeles, Calif.) has provided radiation detection equipment for use at entrances to sports stadiums and the Olympic Village.

American Science and Engineering Inc. (Billerica, Mass.) is supplying its Gemini Parcel Inspection Systems to screen for explosives and contraband in parcels at key checkpoints for the games. The system has two imaging systems in one machine: dual-energy transmission for metallic detection plus proprietary Z® Backscatter™ technology for enhanced organic detection.

Automated explosives detection systems also have been provided by L-3 Communications (Woburn, Mass.) to the Beijing Airport. L-3's Security and Detection Systems subsidiary will supply 22 MVT-HR multi-view tomography explosives detection systems and 81 operator workstations for the hold-baggage screening system at Terminal 3, the world's largest airport terminal, which opened earlier this year.

For information about the Games, visit

About the Authors

Jerry Laws is editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

Ronnie Rittenberry is managing editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

Marc Barrera is E-News Editor for 1105 Media Inc's Security, Safety and Environmental Protection Group.

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