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Clearing the air over credit for source of pollution data

SCMP Laisee – 26 Nov 2011

Good to see Friends of the Earth pointing to the “disappointing and shameful” air quality in Hong Kong.

It is also a shame and somewhat disappointing it wasn’t so frank about acknowledging how it came by the data.

While the original source of the data was the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Friends of the Earth first heard about the existence of measurements for PM2.5 in Hong Kong in an e-mail from another green group, Clear the Air.

Lai See saw this original data some time ago and it was sent by Clear the Air to the Legco panel on the environment on October 1.

When contacted, Clear the Air chairman James Middleton said the organisation was “somewhat miffed at the lack of acknowledgement” of Friends of the Earth’s source.

But, he added, “any press exposure that shows the horrendous state of lethal PM2.5 and ultrafines’ pollution here caused by incompetent government inaction, prevarication and lack of political will, is good exposure that will be picked up on by the international press and corporations thinking about setting up shop here.”

PM2.5 refers to particles suspended in the air of 2.5 micrometres in diameter. These are smaller and more dangerous to health than PM10, for which the EPD publishes measurements on its website.

The department is doing test-runs for PM2.5. These smaller particles enter the lungs and contribute to acute respiratory symptoms, increase the frequency of child bronchitis, cause premature death owing to their toxicity and carcinogens, and cause cardiovascular illnesses such as heart attacks and heart beat irregularities, according to studies by Harvard University and others.

Middleton says Clear the Air, with help from a donor, plans to buy a Dust Track unit. With a certified expert at the controls, the unit will take PM2.5 readings in our busiest streets which will be published later.

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