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Unlucky eight as city chokes on air placing

Hong Kong Standard

Alice So

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hong Kong is the eighth worst among 566 cities worldwide when it comes to dangerous air pollutants, the Friends of the Earth claimed yesterday.

A recent World Health Organization survey of particulates called PM2.5 – very small but dangerous particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less – did not include Hong Kong.

However a survey by the green group found the city’s PM2.5 concentration in 2010 was 36 micrograms per cubic meter.

This was more than 20 times that of the cleanest city, Whitehorse in Canada, with 1.7 micrograms per cubic meter. As a result, this would put Hong Kong at 559 in WHO rankings.

“Ironically, Hong Kong as a world city cannot even regulate its ever-increasing roadside air pollution,” said Thomas Choi Ka- man, senior environmental affairs officer.

It also means Hong Kong is more polluted than developed cities such as Canberra, Sydney, Singapore, and developing cities like Manila, Sao Paulo and Lima.

“It is a hard-earned notoriety to be ranked more polluted than developing cities like Manila. Even Guangzhou is planning to regulate PM2.5 in 2016, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection,” Choi said.

Control measures are non- existent here, he said.

“The Environmental Protection Department should speed up efforts to replace diesel-run vehicles with electric ones, and ease heavy traffic by launching more low-emission zones,” said Choi, adding the government is too slow in tackling the problem.

The consultation on Air Quality Objectives Review has been going on for almost two years but there have been no amendments to its 1987 version.

Choi said Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen pledged at a Legco meeting in May that objectives would be renewed next month.

PM2.5 is roughly one twenty- eighth the diameter of a human hair. It is so small that it can penetrate a mask, travel through the nose, and reach the heart and lungs.

Choi cited US studies that claim death rates from lung cancer increase by 8percent for every rise of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5

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