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February, 2006:

Hong Kong Marathon – 2006

Hong Kong Marathon – 2006

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pollution index bogus

The Hong Kong marathon has again brought the environmental crisis into sharp focus and this will probably recur for years to come. We can only hope that the marathon’s high profile will promote government action rather than denial and further false rationalisation. In the meantime, the marathon has highlighted several major inconsistencies, reflected in pronouncements by different sectors of the community, which should be addressed urgently. First, the Athletic Association sought to defend the event by pointing to an air pollution index (API) of 100 as “safe”.

It is not to be blamed for this, because, despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, the government continues to cling to this meaningless and misleading measure. I realise that to do otherwise (that is, tell the truth) would precipitate a political furore, but there are no grounds for arguing that such a level of pollution will not cause an injury to respiratory and cardiovascular systems of even healthy people.

I suggest that everyone who took part in the marathon was at risk of harm to their health from pollution. Mostly silent and unobservable, these medical events contribute to our lifetime risks of disease in the heart, blood vessels and lungs.

Second, I disagree with the downgrading of the risks by some medical colleagues, and the suggestion that these will amount to minor and insigificant symptoms. At the very least, they are signals of more fundamental damage. I suggest that the Academy of Medicine convene a consensus conference so that we can all speak with one voice on the matter.

Until and unless we have the courage to admit that we have lost control of air-quality management throughout the region and that the API is a completely bogus health-protection measure, we will move even further away from urgently needed definitive action.

ANTHONY J. HEDLEY, department of community medicine, University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong Marathon report

Twenty-two people were taken to hospital, two in critical condition, after taking part in Hong Kong’s biggest marathon as the territory was hit by the worst air pollution in months.


… an expert in Hong Kong urged people not to underestimate the effects of bad air during strenuous exercise.

Pollution may have been the cause because of the high level of suspended particulates. For people with a history of asthma, polluted air can cause tightness in the chest,” said medical doctor Lo Winglok.

Hong Kong Marathon Air Pollution Alert

News Release – 13 February, 2006

Hong Kong Marathon should have sounded an air pollution alert

The air pollution levels were so high Sunday morning for the Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon 2006 there should have been air pollution alert to warn runners that their health was at significant risk.

According to the US Environmental Protection agency, an Air Pollution Index (API) of 88 – 100 means that everyone should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion. For an API over 100 everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Says Annelise Connell, Chairman of Clear The Air “It was inexcusable for the Hong Kong Government to claim that no action should have been taken and that running a marathon in this pollution was not a risk to healthy people.”

Running in this marathon was guaranteed to make everyone sick to some degree because of the pollution. There is often a three day lag time between pollution episodes and symptoms, so everyone who ran on Sunday should check their health over the next few days and report any heart or respiratory symptoms to their doctor, the Health Department and the Environmental Protection Department.

The Air Pollution Index is worthless to athletes during a race because it is an average of the previous 24 hours. The air pollution peaked at 9 am and the runners were sucking in very unhealthy amounts of pollution.

Said Ms. Connell “All sporting events organizers should check the Greenpeace / Clear The Air website to see if athletes need to be warned of the air pollution levels.”

European Union “very unhealthy” level is 50 micrograms per cubic metres of air.
Hong Kong “very unhealthy” level is 180 micrograms per cubic metres of air.