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Deadly air pollution on the increase in Hong Kong

Want to do sports in HK? There are only 30 days in HK which the air is safe to do sports outside according to the WHO guidelines.

Want to do sports in HK? There are only 30 days in HK which the air is safe to do sports outside according to the WHO guidelines.

A report in Hong Kong media last week says the city and its surrounding areas experienced life-threatening levels of air pollution one in every eight days last year.
The South China Morning Post reports figures from the Environment Protection Department showing there were 44 days of ‘very high pollution’ reported in Central, on Hong Kong island. In some areas air quality has deteriorated five-fold in just five years, and there are criticisms that official records do not show the whole picture.

Click here to read the report from New York Times.

Presenter: Bo Hill
Speaker: Gerald Winnington-Ingram, Clear the Air Hong Kong

WINNINGTON-INGRAM: We have now in Hong Kong a situation where we only have 41 days of healthy breathable air according to the WHO guidelines per year. Irrespective of the fact that you cannot see anything which is a shame, because it really is a beautiful city and a beautiful place to be living, the health implications are very, very serious and you certainly would not want to be doing any physical exercise on one of those days. We have only some 30 days in which it is safe to do sports outside and then according to the WHO guidelines.

HILL: Are there particular areas of Hong Kong, say Central or the New Territories, that suffer worse than elsewhere?

WINNINGTON-INGRAM: There are. For example, Nathan Road, which is an extremely popular tourist destination – well there we have nitrogen dioxide levels at some 380 milligrams per cubic metre and that’s well in excess of WHO guideline which is for 200 milligrams per cubic metre and in fact even Hong Kong’s own air quality objective is for 300, so it’s well in excess of that. So that’s Nathan Road. Plus also parts of the Central District – Des Voeux Road, which is a major thoroughfare running through the central business area, that has a reading of around 390 milligrams per cubic metre of nitrogen dioxide. Hennessy Road is another one which is in Wan Chai, again a very popular local area – 480. So these are areas you certainly don’t want to be going in at all on a bad day. But if you’re suffering from any form of respiratory disease or heart complaint, it is actually very dangerous. We had in 2008, over 1,000 avoidable deaths, some 81,000 avoidable hospital days as a consequence, something in the order of seven and a quarter million avoidable doctors visits and all of that amounts to the cost in the order of about 230 million Hong Kong dollars, which could have been avoided. Now that doesn’t even take into account all the other ailments such as coughs, sore throats and itchy eyes, that were not even reported.

HILL: So huge costs, not only monetary but also physically. What’s been done about it and can Hong Kong authorities be doing more?

WINNINGTON-INGRAM: Well, I think they could be doing a lot more and we certainly and other green groups are campaigning extremely hard. Fifty three per cent of air pollution is local and it’s actually Hong Kong is the dominant source. Yes, we do get air pollution coming from the Pearl River Delta of course, but roadside pollution which is a major problem in Hong Kong is caused by local conditions. Some 50 per cent of Hong Kong’s total emissions is also being caused by power plants. Forty per cent of roadside emissions have been caused by buses. The government’s figures go nowhere close to showing the real picture and the real affect of air pollution in Hong Kong.

source: Radio Australia‏

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