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HK air pollution hits unhealthy levels

pollution-in-hong-kongLast updated: March 22, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Hong Kong’s Air Pollution Index (API) hit high and unhealthy levels on Monday – particularly in Mong Kok and some parts of Hong Kong Island, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) said.

Roadside air pollution in Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok climbed to particularly high levels.At 5.41pm, the reading at a roadside station in Causeway Bay soared from 410 to 495, while readings in Central and Mong Kok, climbed to 376 and 458, respectively.

The highest recorded on Monday afternoon at the general monitoring station in Tsuen Wan was 434, while other districts, such as in Eastern, Sha Tin, Tai Po and also recorded air pollution levels of around 400.

An API reading of between 0-50 meant the air pollution did not pose a health threat to people, according to the EPD’s website. But when the API is at 101-200, people with heart and respiratory illnesses may find their symptoms are aggravated. When the API is between 201-500, even healthy people may suffer eye irritation, coughing, phlegm and sore throats.

The city’s pollution is being made worse by a large sandstorm moving south from Northern China.

“Because the sandstorm is very strong and the easterly monsoon wind is blowing the sands and dust toward Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, [there is] a high concentrations of air pollutants in Hong Kong,” said EPD assistant director Mok Wai-Chuen on local radio on Wednesday.

“But with south-easterly wind arriving in Hong Kong later on Tuesday, we expect the situation to improve on Tuesday or Wednesday,” he added.

Hong Kong’s pollution levels would remain high for most of Monday, he added.

Clear the Air chairman Christian Masset said the sandstorm was now affecting 16 provinces in China. “These are very exceptional events”, he told local radio.

Environment Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah advised people with heart and respiratory illnesses to be careful.

“People should try to use more public transport instead of driving their own cars, quit smoking, stop idling car engines. We would also ask power companies to try to shift to cleaner energy. We will continue to monitor the situation to inform the public about developments,” Yau told reporters.

Yu Wai-cho, a doctor with Princess Margaret Hospital’s Department of Medicine and Geriatrics, advised people should avoid heavily polluted areas or doing strenuous exercise.

The Education Department also appealed to schools to cancel or delay sports events until the situation improved. Environment Secretary Edmund Yau said the government was monitoring the air pollution situation.

Northern China is experiencing its strongest sandstorm this year. The sky glowed on Saturday and a thin dusting of sand covered Beijing, causing workers and tourists to muffle their faces in Tiananmen Square. The city’s weather bureau gave air quality a rare hazardous ranking.

The current air quality was very bad for everyone’s health, China’s national weather bureau warned. It said people should cover their mouths when outside and keep doors and windows closed.

Written by Regina Leung, Kylene Wu and Associated Press

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