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Marathon held amidst "poor" air quality sparks intense protest online

(Xinhua)

09:50, January 06, 2012

LANZHOU, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- A city in northwest China has come under fire for hosting a mass marathon event during a time of extreme air pollution.

Although known for its generally poor air quality, Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu province, celebrated the New Year by mobilizing about 10,000 citizens, including children and the elderly, into an around-the-city marathon on Sunday.

The day's air quality was rated "poor," with the level of PM10 exceeding 200, triggering online protests over the health risks imposed on the race's participants.

Ma Qizhi, a professor at Northwest University for Nationalities, called the race "a harmful showcase" on Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like microblog.

In a fiercely-phrased post that was widely forwarded, Ma asked the citizens of Lanzhou to stop being "human dust cleaners" and reprimanded parents who sent their children to participate in the harmful activity.

On his Weibo, Ma also posted pictures showing participants running against the background of a hazy, darkened city and senior runners wearing face masks during the race.

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