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Purification fails to clear the air at Legco

South China Morning Post

It is not just pollution on the streets lawmakers have to worry about – even the air in the new Legislative Council complex could leave them coughing and rubbing their eyes.

A two-day air-purification exercise failed t clear toxic substances from the building in Admiralty, and the poor air has forced some legislators to move out, while others say they are concerned for the health of their staff.

The level of total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) – substances normally found in construction material such as wallpaper glue and oil paint – was more than 170 times above the safety level of 261 parts per billion (ppb) before the purification work, readings taken last week in the office of New People Power chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee showed. “I have relocated my staff to my other regional offices,” Ip said. “Although it is troublesome to commute … it is safer to stop using the office now. I have asthma.”

Readings taken over the past two mornings showed TVOC levels on four of the 13 floors of the Legco complex remained above the 261ppb level, with the figure on the fifth floor reaching 320. Liberal Party lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan and the Civic Party’s Tanya Chan said they recorded levels of more than 600ppb in their offices yesterday.

Ip recorded levels of 44,000ppb before the purification work.

Architectural Services Department staff said TVOC levels would be increased by human presence.

Ho Sai-king, assistant director of the department, said another reason for the high figures was because air purification was not carried out  during the day, when they relied on air-conditioning.

Toxic compounds in the building were mainly brought about by defective rectification and adjustment work during the Christmas holiday,” said Priscilla Tam, the department’s project director.

People’s Health Action chairman Dr Lo Wing-lok said toxic materials used in construction could lead to infertility if chronically inhaled.

“In the short term, TVOC will lead to sore eyes and irritation of the respiratory system,” Lo said. He advised members to use charcoal filters and open their office windows to improve air quality.

But for Chan, this was not an option.

“There is only one movable window in my office and due to its design we need to ask for Legco staff’s help whenever we open it,” she said.

“I am worried for my staff’s health and I have already asked a pregnant member of staff not to return to this office.”

Tanya Chan fears poor air quality in the Legislative Council complex could lead to health problems.

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