Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

HK’s pollution forces clean-air campaigner out

pic-anthony-j-hedleyLast updated: April 23, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Anthony Hedley leaves city to help his breathing problems

Hong Kong’s leading authority on air quality is leaving the city to escape its dirty air.

Professor Anthony Hedley, of the community medicine department at the University of Hong Kong, will be moving to the Isle of Man – a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea.

The 69-year-old professor, who is one of those most committed to the fight against air pollution in Hong Kong, said he needed to avoid the city’s dirty air to keep his respiratory symptoms under control.

He said: “I need to reduce my exposure to polluted air because I know from experience that my respiratory symptoms subside quickly when I am in cleaner air. Because of my medical history, I now want to avoid the biological stress which comes directly from breathing the polluted air in Hong Kong.”

Hedley said he suffered respiratory symptoms such as coughing and phlegm, which were aggravated by the poor air quality in Hong Kong. He said he planned to continue working with his colleagues at the university, but mainly electronically.

Prentice Koo Wai-muk, a Greenpeace campaigner, yesterday said: “It is certainly a great loss for Hong Kong. Professor Hedley is an authority on air pollution and public health, while many other experts like to focus on the sources of air pollution. He is also very active in expressing his views on air quality. Now we shall lose a voice.”

Koo said he appreciated Hedley’s commitment to study Hong Kong’s air quality while away from the city but feared he might lose touch.

“We can still tell him via e-mails that Hong Kong’s air pollution index is 100, or 140. But, a mere figure can be meaningless. You have to be here to know how bad it is and its impacts,” Koo said.

Friends of the Earth director Edwin Lau Che-feng said the air quality locally should have been greatly improved if the government had listened to Hedley’s advice.

Over the past two decades, the professor has campaigned for measures to control emissions of air pollutants from road traffic, shipping, and power plants.

But he said he was disheartened by the government’s inertia. “One of my biggest regrets is that we have not been able to move on the issue.”

In a statement yesterday, the Enviornmental Protection Department described Hedley as “our good comrade on combating air pollution” and said “we can assure him and all others who have concerns on our air quality that we would continue taking our best efforts to improve our air quality, both for our citizens’ health and for our competitiveness”.

Hedley has been chair professor of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong since 1988.

He and his university team launched the Hedley Environmental Index in 2008 to provide real-time measurements of the health and financial impacts of air pollution in Hong Kong.

The index showed that so far this year health care and lost productivity related to air pollution illnesses has cost the city about HK$572 million. The index also showed a total of 1.88 million doctor visits and 248 premature deaths because of air pollution over the same period.

A respected figure in the field, the professor was also appointed to the Advisory Council on Environment and the Environmental Impact Assessment subcommittee from 1996 to 2002. He was a member, and later chairman, of the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health from 1994 to 2002.

Widely regarded as his farewell lecture, Hedley will speak on Wednesday at a forum organised by Civic Exchange and Clean Air Network.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *