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Mong Kok Pollution ‘Three Times’ WHO Levels

Peter So – SCMP – Updated on Oct 01, 2008

A green group and legislator warned the worsening air quality at tourist spots would scare off visitors, and are urging government to tighten the air-quality measuring standards.

Greenpeace have conducted on-site monitoring of the levels of respiratory suspended particulates (PM-10) and fine suspended particulates (PM-2.5) on Monday and Tuesday this week – prior to the peak tourist period of “Golden Week” – in a pedestrian area of Mong Kok.

The experiment discovered that the concentration levels of both particulates had three times exceeded the World Health Organisation’s most stringent standards. It means tourists and local residents’ health could be threatened if they are exposed to the area for several hours.

Paul Tse Wai-chun, a legislator in the tourism sector, said the poor air quality would damage the city’s image in the long run.

An earlier survey found 48.8 per cent of local tourist guides had received complaints from tourists about the city’s air pollution, Greenpeace said.

Meanwhile, Mr Tse called on the government to amend the air-quality measuring standards in accord of the WHO guidelines which [were] established in 2006.

The current government standards had been adopted since 1987, and it did not include PM-2.5 – which research suggests can penetrate deep into human lungs and have more severe health effects than larger particulates.

“The current standards are too loose and outdated,” said Mr Tse.

He said it is the responsibility of the government to update the Environmental Protection Department’s Air Pollution Index to let the public know the real situation of air pollution.

Mr Tse added that initiatives to improve the “wall effect” created by high-rise buildings and the control of traffic flow in busy districts should be undertaken.

Despite the government would commission a study to review the air-quality objectives and development a long-term management strategy, Greenpeace campaigner Prentice Koo Wai-muk said the government has no time-table to amend current standards to meet the WHO’s more stringent standards progressively.

And the green group would update a “Real Air Pollution Index” on the website – – which would monitor air pollutants including sulphur dioxide, ozone, respirable suspended particles and nitrogen dioxide with the updated WHO standards.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace has made travel tips on the city’s scenic spots with better air quality to tourists. Mr Tse said the government can promote those spots as a remedy.

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