Hong Kong suffers Chronic Air Pollution

Is Hong Kong too complacent regarding air pollution? Will pollution levels be tolerated in the interests of economic necessity or are its health impacts currently too ‘trivial’ or distant to warrant any July 1st demonstrations in Central? I am currently conducting a foresight study, looking 15 years into the future to 2020 and investigating people’s sentiments with regard to their future careers and livelihood in Hong Kong. One aspect of that is the effect that pollution may have on their views, particularly with regard to the SAR Government’s commitment to policies in response to it and its plans for further development, something that will undoubtedly magnify the impacts.
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Hi Jerry:

I think HK people are concerned, but with this a chronic problem, and deaths not real spectacular and in public eye (and, I think, air pollution rarely if ever proven to be cause of illness/death), seems no great impetus to get on street.

Much of govt probably is pretty complacent; not much public pressure re pollution, but pressure for development. Then, a lot of pollution here is cross-border, and that's tougher - leaders very focused on development, and even though there seems to be appreciation that pollution is severe and a problem, actually doing hard stuff to tackle it maybe seen as even tougher.

I've been here 18 years, seen much talk but little action re air pollution. (Seemed a plus when tougher emission levels caused many factories to close in Tsuen Wan area - but then, factories popped up over border, essentially unregulated [regulations are there, but who bothers about such trivia?])

Also a plus to have LPG for taxis, light buses.
But look at the obstacles placed before trolley buses, which Citybus keen on. And still the love of highways (by, gasp!, dept responsible for highways) - like the silly road being built over Stonecutters; harbour reclamation being - we're told - driven by need to improve highway system, while electronic road pricing etc languish. Bah!


Post edited by: Martin, at: 2005/04/22 11:22

Hong">http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000080&sid=aDVzcB_D2zFQ&refer=a... Kong Wheezes as China's Industrial Economy Belches Smog is title of an item from Bloomberg. Plenty of info and quotes, including:
``It's an absolute scandal,'' said Anthony Hedley, chairman of the department of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong. ``Hong Kong is going backward in terms of pollution. The government has been non-interventionist to the point of being really negligent.''
On average Hong Kong experiences low visibility every five days, according to a CLSA report in April. Good air quality days fell to 35 percent last year compared with 45 percent in 2001, it said. Singapore is by far the cleanest city in Asia in terms of air quality, while Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei all enjoy better air than Hong Kong, the report said.
Falling air quality in Hong Kong will affect the health of the city's residents long into the future, said Professor Tai Hing Lam, head of the department of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong. ``If air pollution affects our people at a young age, then we may see something more disastrous in the coming years,'' said Lam. ``Pollution is becoming a major problem in Hong Kong.'' The city's attractiveness as a travel destination is also under threat, according to industry officials such as Mark Lettenbichler, chairman of the Hong Kong Hotels Association, and Selina Chow, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board. ``It should be the government's number one priority,'' Chow said.

The government has not published any air pollution readings since 1pm today Sunday 23rd October.Anyone have any idea why?


Bizarre; just checked at: http://www.epd-asg.gov.hk/eindex.php - and still blank since around 7pm on Sunday. Hopefully just temporary glitch. There's no note on EPD website. Sunday China Morning Post - sadly unlinkable - led with big story on air pollution yesterday, inc criticisms of govt for not measuring the smaller particulates, which recent research eslewhere has shown to be more dangerous than previously thought, especially impacted children. Showed how our air pollution would be consistently way over European Union Standards. Suggested breathing here is roughly equivalant to smoking eight cigarettes a day. Govt has anti-smoking adverts. Maybe soon should also have adverts saying, "Warning: Breathing Can Damage Your Health". Google News search for air">http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=&q=air+pollution+particulates&btnG... pollution particulates yields items inc re air pollution linked to increased risk of heart attack and lower sperm quality; also news item titled Heat">http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=32103]Heat dangers forgotten in the battle against air pollution - saying some deaths thought to be due to ozone were really because of heat. People over 65 most at risks; and heat related deaths even in UK.

Hong Kong Marathon just held - and led to some bad publicity for Hong Kong, highlighting local air pollution.
By no means first time air pollution here has been focus of media attention; still, can but hope it will help nudge authorities towards more action, less talk.

Excerpts from Reuters item, here on [i]Boston Globe[/i] site:

[quote]HONG KONG (Reuters) - Twenty-two people were taken to hospital, two in critical condition, after taking part in Hong Kong's biggest marathon as the territory was hit by the worst air pollution in months, the government said on Monday.

A record 40,000 people took part in Sunday's Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon and many complained of the thick smog which obscured the Tsing Ma Bridge, a key landmark along the route.

Of the two runners who were critically ill, one collapsed near the finish in Wanchai, an area where the air pollution index (API) soared to nearly 150, the highest level since September 2005. The other collapsed not far from the Tsing Ma Bridge.
... an expert in Hong Kong urged people not to underestimate the effects of bad air during strenuous exercise.
"Pollution may have been the cause because of the high level of suspended particulates. For people with a history of asthma, polluted air can cause tightness in the chest," said medical doctor Lo Winglok.
"It is not surprising at all that these people could suffer from cardiac or respiratory related problems," he said.
However, Choi Kin, president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the condition of the two men was more likely to be linked to their level of fitness rather than air quality.
Hong Kong's air quality has deteriorated badly in recent years. On many days of the year, the former British colony handed back to China in 1997 is shrouded in smog and people can hardly see across the famous Victoria Harbour.
Environmentalists blame the air pollution on emissions from vehicles in the territory and factories in southern China.

[url=http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2006/02/13/two_runners_cr... runners critically ill after HK marathon[/url]

Just checking air pollution indices - which are being published, and High; even at Tap Mun, out in Tolo Harbour in eastern New Territories: so, seems we're in regional, Pearl River Delta pollution.
[and govt wants to build major highway from Zhuhai and lots of associated infrastructure...]

Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/02/14 01:18

So we have now had 2 major events that have highlighted Hong Kong as being a polluted city -the opening of Disneyland and now the Marathon. How many more international exposes will we need to get this government to start being more proactive. Rumour has it there is supposed to be some Airshow taking place next year - i hope it does not involve low level aerial stunt flying, or they might find themselves wrapped up in the cables of 360.
Saying that I was busy running and filming up the IFC tower on Sat, and in all my years I have never seen such an apocolyptic view and orange glowing sun first thing in the morning..it was truly sad, ugly and not the Hong Kong I used to know...

Reverting back to my original post, images of the sunrise could be downloaded from twoifcmounteverestchallenge dot com  [defunct now? - Martin]

article on Xinhua about air pollution in HK:

[quote]Hong Kong is famous for its harbor scenery, green mountains and blue sky, but they are now giving way to heavy smog, which not only choked the city but also made colors faded into a depressed grey.

The Environmental Protection Department of Hong Kong said Tuesday that 23 pollution convictions were recorded in February and more than half of the convictions were under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance.

According to the Friends of the Earth, an environment protecting organization, the number of low visibility days at the Hong Kong International Airport, where tourists get the first impression of the city, reached a record high last year. And the number of clear days in the downtown area is even less.

Emissions of vehicles and power plants, as well as pollutants from the Pearl River Delta are considered the main reasons for the bad air of the city.

A survey published by Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Lung Foundation said that 30 percent of elderly citizens over the age of 70 complained about respiratory problems in 2003 because of bad air, compared with 4.9 percent in 1991. The percentage has risen six times within 12 years.

Respiratory experts have called on the government to take immediate measures in air pollution control, including a smoking ban in all catering services by 2007, the most difficult part for Hong Kong's long delayed dream of smoke free.

More experts are concerned that the severe air pollution will not only harm the health of the public but also damage the image of Hong Kong's tourism industry, an important source of revenue for the city.

Friends of the Earth said it has interviewed 129 tour guides between March 8 and 10, during which half of the interviewees rated the air quality of Hong Kong as either severe or very severeand nearly 40 percent said tourists had complained about air pollution.

A spokesman for Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department said Monday that the government is determined to achieve the emission targets by cooperation with neighboring Guangdong Province.

The governments of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Guangdong have agreed to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2),nitrogen oxides (NOx), respirable suspended particulates (RSP) andvolatile organic compounds (VOC) by 40 percent, 20 percent, 55 percent and 55 percent, respectively by the year of 2010.

For the electricity generation, the biggest source of air pollution in Hong Kong, the Department has asked power companies to accelerate emission reduction projects, increase the use of ultra-low sulfur coal and use natural gas for power generation as much as possible.

Meanwhile, a large scale of educational campaign of anti-smoke is launched this month in catering service industry in order to reach the target of eliminating smoking in all catering places in Hong Kong by the year of 2007.

The Department also planned to pursue additional measures in its struggle for better air, such as introducing Euro IV emission standards to newly-registered vehicles. [/quote]
[url=http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-03/21/content_4327972.htm]Choked Hong Kong fights for better air[/url]

Friends of the Earth has an online petition, imploring local power companies to clean up emissions (and do more than just bombard us with adverts showing blue skies - let's see some actual blue skies!)

Not sure if there's cut-off date.

English: http://www.foe.org.hk/Ealert/energy/energy_eng.asp

Chinese: http://www.foe.org.hk/Ealert/energy/energy.asp

Thank you for your email regarding indoor air quality and respirable
suspended particulates (RSP).

The indoor air quality objective for RSP is less than 180ug/m3 for a 8-hour
average while the air quality objective of RSP for ambient air is 180
ug/m3 for a 24-hour average. The averaging time for both objectives are
different and so direct comparison between them may not be appropriate.

In fact, our IAQ objectives are comparable to similar standards of other
countries, nevertheless we will continue to keep in view of the latest
development in the area and update the IAQ objectives when necessary.

Thank you again for your suggestions and support for improving indoor air


Environmental Protection Department

To: chris_cheung@epd.gov.hk
Cc: jfong@epd.gov.hk ; iaq@hkpc.org
Sent: Tuesday, March 07, 2006 9:00 AM
Subject: Re: E(06/0247) Comments on EPD's IAQ Website Advice to the Public

IAQ Objectives for Offices and Public Places

Respirable Suspended Particulates
"Good Class"

[quote]By Victor Mallet in Hong Kong
Published: April 3 2006

Hong Kong’s ranking as a desirable place to live for expatriate employees has fallen sharply as a result of worsening air pollution, according to the latest survey of the world’s cities from ECA International, which sells advice to employers on living conditions and hardship allowances.

For Asian expatriates, Hong Kong fell to 32nd place in the 2005-06 rankings from 20th in 2004-05, entirely because of air pollution and rising health risks, including the dangers of bird flu to humans.
Hong Kong’s pollution, most of it blown in from the factories, vehicles and power stations of the neighbouring Chinese province of Guangdong, has worsened steadily but its authorities have been slow to respond and been reluctant to confront their counterparts in Guangdong and Beijing. Some western expatriates have moved from Hong Kong to Singapore or returned to their home countries, citing air pollution as one of the factors that persuaded them to leave.

Mr Quane said that for Asian expatriates Hong Kong’s decline this year had pushed the city from the top category, where ECA says no hardship allowance is needed, to Category B, for which companies should consider paying such an allowance.

Air pollution is given 20 out of a total of 330 points in the ranking system (with the highest score being the worst). Hong Kong’s air pollution score is 14, compared with two for Singapore....[/quote]
[url=http://news.ft.com/cms/s/921be3de-c2aa-11da-ac03-0000779e2340.html]Hong Kong’s air pollution cuts its appeal[/url]

Time Asia just reporting that Seoul is cleaning its air; but at the same time, Hong Kong's air pollution is getting worse.

[quote]By Bryan Walsh | Hong Kong
VANISHING: Hong Kong is often shrouded in heavy smog

...Hong Kong has lost its sky. The city is frequently cloaked in a noxious smog, and many days the only place you can see a clear shot of the famously picturesque skyline is in ads for luxury apartments. Urban esthetics aside, the damage to Hong Kong residents' lungs may be worse. "The only safe conclusion is that [air pollution] is having a very serious adverse effect on the health of people of all ages," says Dr. Anthony Hedley, chairman of the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. Here's the only good news: air pollution has become so severe and so unremitting that Hong Kongers are fed up—and may finally be ready to force their leaders to act.

... The answers are out there: the government's Council for Sustainable Development last week released a number of smart anti-pollution proposals, such as restricting vehicle use on high-pollution days, imposing an energy tax during periods of peak power use, and asking electricity producers to use only clean coal or low-polluting natural gas by 2010. While those ideas could have a major impact, many experts doubt whether Hong Kong's entrenched bureaucracy has the imagination or the will to implement them—and to confront a challenge that crosses borders and barriers.
"We've done the easy things, like getting diesel vehicles on low-sulfur fuels," says Bill Barron, a visiting professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "But the more fundamental changes still need to be made"—such as extending the city's underdeveloped rail network.

At least the Hong Kong government has the authority to make those changes, if it chooses. There's far less it can do about the estimated 80% of its air pollution that floats across the border from the mainland factories, power plants and highways of Guangdong province, where environmental regulations and enforcement are more lax.
A consensus is growing that Hong Kong businessmen who have grown rich polluting the Pearl River Delta should help clean up the mess. "In the past, they thought that the dirty fields, the dirty air and the dirty water resulting from the factories would not be their problems," said Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang last month. "These things come back to haunt us. You breathe in that air in Hong Kong and you drink that water in Hong Kong."
The business community is also increasingly worried that pollution will make Hong Kong fall behind in the arms race for top foreign workers. Last month human-resources consultancy ECA International dropped Hong Kong 12 spots to No. 32 on its annual list of the most livable cities for Asian expatriates, chiefly on the basis of air pollution. (Singapore was No. 1.) Headhunters are already grappling with this competitive threat. Aaron Stewart, director of the Hong Kong division of recruitment firm Pelham International, tells of a client who accepted an $800,000-a-year offer to move from the U.S. to Hong Kong, only to drop out at the last minute because his wife feared the effect the city's air pollution would have on their two asthmatic children. "The majority of people spend a lot of time thinking about it," he says. "There's no denying the pollution."
[url=http://www.time.com/time/asia/covers/501060515/hk_air.html]Let There Be Light
While Seoul cleans up, air pollution in Hong Kong only worsens. Will the government act[/url]

Clear the Air/Asiaexpat petition, requesting govt take immediate action on air pollution:


[quote]Chester Yung Taking stronger policy measures to improve air quality could help to avoid the deaths of 1,600 people in Hong Kong, a survey has found. The study "Air Pollution: costs and paths to a solution - Understanding the connection between visibility, air pollution and health cost, in pursuit of accountability, environmental justice and health protection" concluded that air pollution causes discomfort and illness in children and adults, increased use of health care at all levels of the health- care system and premature deaths. Findings were released Thursday by the study's authors from the Department of Community Medicine at Hong Kong University, the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Chinese University, the Institute for the Environment at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology along with think-tank Civic Exchange. Researchers said air quality improvements could bring benefits of more than HK$20 billion a year. In addition, 64,000 hospital "bed days" and 6.8 million family doctor visits could be avoided, findings show. [b]"If it was an infectious disease, there would be a crisis," professor Anthony Hedley from Hong Kong University's School of Public Health said. "This is a medical emergency."[/b] ... The study says Hong Kong has poor visibility 45 percent of the time. The city is worse than Los Angeles, London, New York and Paris in terms of respirable suspended particulate air pollution levels. Researchers counted the number of medical "events" - hospital admissions, doctor consultations or deaths - on a daily basis over a period, and looked at the numbers besides data on the amount of pollutants in the air. They estimated that HK$1.5 billion could be saved per year in tangible health-care costs, HK$500 million could be saved in productivity lost due to pollution-related illness and HK$19 billion in intangible costs, including the value of lost lives and the willingness to pay to avoid illness. ... Chinese University professor Wong Tze-wai said that Hong Kong's air quality objectives were based on the 1987 World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines for Europe and have not been revised since. "They are clearly outdated and offer no protection to the health of Hong Kong's citizens," Wong said. ...[/quote] [url=http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=11&art_id=20462&sid... cost of air pollution[/url] You can/could download the report from June 2006 listings at: [url=http://www.civic-exchange.org]Civic Exchange[/url]

[quote]Hong Kong's worsening air pollution is driving away expatriates and threatening foreign investment according to a survey released Sunday by the American Chamber of Commerce. A poll of 140 top executives working for the chamber's member companies showed that almost four out of five knew someone who had either left Hong Kong or was thinking of leaving because of poor air quality.

The survey also revealed that 95 per cent of respondents were worried about air quality in Hong Kong and the potential long-term effects on the health of themselves and their children. [/quote]
Hong Kong pollution threatening foreign investment - survey[/url]

Another international news item - from Reuters - on HK air pollution, inc impacts on business people from overseas, several of whom even leave because the air's so bad.
Hong Kong's international business community, drawn for years by the city's low taxes and strong legal system, has become increasingly critical of the bad air tainting its business-friendly credentials. "It's a major concern to the chamber and its members and their families," said Deborah Biber, the Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce. The British Chamber of Commerce called on Hong Kong's leader, Donald Tsang, to make the environment his top policy priority in the coming few years, saying the deteriorating environment was "adversely affecting ... our enviable international status." BREATHING BAD AIR While the economic costs of bad air have been difficult to quantify, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong found in a recent survey that four out of five business executives knew someone who was thinking of leaving or had left the territory because of the poor air. ... A Thai-American managing director of a large investment bank, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue with his firm, left Hong Kong in June -- for a second time -- because his 10-year-old son's asthma condition worsened substantially during Hong Kong's smoggy winters. ... The Hong Kong and Guangdong governments have pledged to cut pollutants including sulphur dioxide by 40 percent by 2010. But with the mainland's electricity-hungry manufacturing boom showing no signs of abating, there are fears in the Hong Kong business community that air quality could deteriorate further. ... For the first six months of this year, Hong Kong suffered 65 days of smog reduced visibility of less than five kilometres, making it difficult at times to glimpse buildings across the harbour. Its particulate levels are around 40 percent higher than in Los Angeles, the most polluted city in the United States.
Bad air taints Hong Kong's business reputation

Just checked forecast on HK Observatory website, and for next week, four consecutive days forecast to be "fine and dry but hazy". With light north winds, we can figure this "haze" will result from smog - which is to be expected far more frequently in coming months, after the respite during summer (with more rain, plus more winds from over the sea, where the air is way cleaner than over mainland China).

First time I've noticed the Obs has a special symbol for "haze"

Back in late July, the Hong Kong Government announced the [url=http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/action_blue_sky/action_blue_sky.html]A... Blue Sky[/url] campaign, with the natty English slogan "Clean Air for a Cool Hong Kong" (which means what, exactly, in this sub-tropical locale? - if the air is cleaner, will we move towards the Arctic? Or maybe we'll be much more laid back, just like, wow, man, so coool).

Reading info on the campaign, seems there's plenty of talk - trying to persuade various people that reducing pollution is a good idea. But precious little action.
Lately seen report re Advisory Committee on the Environment meeting, and fudging n dilly-dallying over new Air Quality Objectives.

Small wonder then that, as get return of northeast monsoon, also get return of skies that too often aren't blue, but greyish-white. Bleah!

Shot here from Cheung Chau today - looks like there are few clouds above us (certainly nothing evident on satellite images), and yet the sky isn't blue, but greyish-white, with the only blue just visible right overhead. HK Observatory mentions "some haze" yet, curiously, their haze icon not showing today, or in 7-day forecast: just a sun icon for today. [img]http://www.hkoutdoors.com/components/com_joomlaboard/uploaded/images/che...

So much for hopes the Golden Week Holiday may mean clearer air, as factories maybe closing on mainland. And, so much for Action Blue Sky - no word from Donald T and the project team about the whitish skies prevailing at present. Again a shot from Cheung Chau (today); have to look up high to see almost decent blue. And as for seeing Lantau Peak through the murk - well, another day, such as in summer... [img]http://www.hkoutdoors.com/components/com_joomlaboard/uploaded/images/cc_...

Soon after I took the above, a slow ferry chugged out from Cheung Chau, adding its own contribution to the grime in the sky. [img]http://www.hkoutdoors.com/components/com_joomlaboard/uploaded/images/cc_...

From the New York Times (an editorial):

[quote]Anyone who has ever fallen under Hong Kong's exotic spell in recent years knows how taking a deep breath can make the magic disappear. The air throughout Hong Kong's tropical landscape has grown steadily more polluted - tainted by dark, unhealthy clouds from power plants, traffic and underregulated smokestacks from the Chinese mainland.
Hong Kong's average air pollution levels can be so high - double or even triple the World Health Organization limit - that some analysts estimate the air contributes to an extra 2,000 deaths a year. Leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly promised to cut down on environmental toxins in the air, land and water.
Such departures have finally begun to raise concerns in Hong Kong's business community. The local Chamber of Commerce issued an urgent request for the government to commit to "genuine reductions in air pollution" after it found that "an alarming 95 percent" of executives interviewed were worried or very worried about air quality and its effects on their health. But [b]in a disheartening development this week, Hong Kong's chief executive, Donald Tsang, missed yet another opportunity to lay out a workable plan for clearing the air quickly[/b].
This is not a hopeless situation, as leaders in Mexico City could attest. Once a place where residents courted asthma with every step outside, Mexico City approved what is generally regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive approaches to air pollution in 1990. The measures included everything from new fuel composition standards to new emission standards for vehicles. As a result, Mexico City halved some forms of air pollution in only five years. If Hong Kong even committed to cutting its pollution in half, that would be a good start.[/quote]
[url=http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/10/13/opinion/edhong.php]Something in Hong Kong's air[/url]

email newsletter from Christine Loh, of Civic Exchange: This may turn out to be a bad week for Donald Tsang’s (DT) career as a politician. As Hong Kong takes more pounding in the international media (NY Times has an editorial [see above]) on its poor air quality, DT showed he has yet to grasp the basics of air pollution. He needs now to make quick amends to show he is in command of at least his own knowledge. Most importantly, the government needs to acknowledge air pollution and public health are linked. A. How DT sees the air problem … radio transcript Backchat RTHK 8:00-8:30 am October 13 “… let me tell you the facts. There have been improvements … There are major pollutants in the air. There are sulphur dioxide … nitrogen oxides of all kinds and there are the Respirable Suspended Particulates, and then the fourth one is volatile organic compounds. Now, as far as NOx, the nitrogen oxide, and RSP and VOC are concerned, since 1997 each of these things have declined in terms of percentage. NOx has declined by 16% since 1997, and RSP 28% and VOC by 23%. Now we have only one problem sulphur dioxide. Sulphur dioxide in fact has increased by 47% and the main emitter of this is our power stations so that’s the reasons we are concentrating our efforts in improving and upgrading our power stations and we are doing that in the context of the next scheme of control we are negotiating with the power companies and I am determined, and I’ve said so in my policy address, and we will certainly resolve this question once and for all as far as the power companies are concerned. Now why do people feel that they don’t see that the air is poorer? It is a question of visibility. Is the air right, not so so the road side air quality but what we see into the air that is a small particle, that is small particulates which is coming from the mainland that may not effect us or the thing we breath but it effects our feeling that the air is not as good as before. Now this is something that we need a different set of solutions. We are working as you know with Guangdong Authorities to make sure that we have a concerted effort, to make a concerted effort to resolve that problem and you will see from my policy address that we are working on that … We must make sure that ourselves, we have to make sure that the community is good for our people and is welcoming to all sorts of people, businessmen coming here to work, expatriates coming here to live here, to settle the family and tourist coming here happily and I am certainly will work hard to towards those goals”. B. What Tsang tried to say … see if you agree 1. There is haze i.e. loss of visibility. 3. The small particulates which come from the mainland are the main causes of the haze. 4. The haze “may not effect us or the thing we breathe but it effects our feeling that the air is not as good as before”. 5. Roadside air pollution is poor. C. What is wrong with what Tsang said? 1. A large amount (70%+) of the particulates originate across the border, and yes, they affect the entire visibility of the region BUT to claim the loss of visibility “may not affect us or the thing we breathe” is UNTRUE. 2. Particulates are one of the most damaging pollutants to health because the smaller particles can penetrate into our blood and organs. The loss of visibility is an excellent indicator of worsening pollution. 3. To also say that it is the loss of visibility that gives people the “feeling” that the air is not as good as before implies the impact is more a “feeling” than a reality when it is clearly a reality. D. Observations … refusal to make the health link 1. DT’s incoherence and tortuous statement indicates his government is trying desperately not to make the direct link between air pollution and public health. 2. If an honest admission of the link was made, the government would need to show the people it must do very much more and do it quickly to improve air quality to the point where pollution no longer poses a significant health risk as it does at present. 4. Hong Kong people must make DT pledge during his election campaign to serve a 5-year term (2007-2012) to show a convincing comprehensive plan to clean-up. p.s. Civic Exchange presented such a plan to DT on 11/9/2006 - “An Air Management Plan”

So, three months since the Hong Kong Government launched the Action Blue Sky Campaign, the autumn skies are whiter and greyer than I can ever remember - and this even when there are few or no clouds in the sky.

Now have Donald Tsang pretty much giving up on achieving cleaner air in foreseeable future, and blathering about pollution as if it's cosmetic issue rather than public health crisis.

Media articles continue, inc in [i]Taipei Times[/i]:

While environmental, tourism and business lobbies urge the government to take action to restore Hong Kong's formerly clear skies, Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權) told local radio that the pall of pollution hanging over the city is a crisis of visibility rather than of public health.

In comments on the radio and during a major speech to businessmen, Tsang stressed the problems of murky skies caused by rising smog rather than evidence that emissions are causing severe health problems.

"Why do people feel that they don't see, that the air is poorer? It is a question of visibility," Tsang told a phone-in program on local RTHK radio over the weekend.

"Is the air right? Not so," he said. "Small particulates, which [are] coming from the mainland [China] may not affect us or [what] we breathe, but it affects our feeling that the air is not as good as before," he said.

Later, in a speech to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, he reiterated his position by trying to separate the issue of visibility from air quality.

"Visibility, of course, is a question of degree. We are talking about small particulates. Do not equate visibility directly with just very bad air. We are doing our best. Visibility is important. What about blue skies? Blue skies implies visibility and for that reason that certainly is my priority," he said.
Pollution has become a hot political issue in Hong Kong as smog levels have risen to often dangerous levels. Poor air quality cut visibility to less than 1km on more than 50 days last year.

More worrying, however, is evidence from the medical community that pollution-related illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma are claiming lives in ever greater numbers.

The key tourism industry is also complaining about the problem, with a tour guides association saying 10 percent of customers had gone down with smog-related illnesses while holidaying there.
[url=http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2006/10/19/2003332415]Tsang slammed by critics over HK skies[/url]

Hello, Donald Tsang, hope you have a little time to read about health impacts of respirable suspended particles. Try, for instance, this CNN item, which mentions Hong Kong, and includes: [quote]What is most disturbing, is the increasing evidence of a link between ultrafine particle pollution and an incidence of heart disease. According to an article in "Heart," the journal of the British Cardiac Society: "Epidemiology has clearly shown a link between increases in particulate air pollution and deaths and admissions caused by heart failure, myocardial infarction and arrhythmia." While scientists have yet to fully explain exactly how the presence of the ultra-fine pollutants causes increased heart disease, "the association of air pollution with cardiac mortality and morbidity is beyond doubt," the journal says. Many pollution researchers believe vehicle exhausts pump out microscopic specks of carbon which are coated with chemicals such as chromium, peroxide and hydrocarbons resulting from the burnt fuel. These particles measure less than one-tenth of a micron across. They are so small that they can pass easily through the walls of a human lung and penetrate into the body's red blood cells. From there, they wreak health havoc, penetrating the body's cells and disabling them. Recent laboratory studies suggest these ultrafine particles can be up to 50 times more damaging than bigger particles, possibly triggering heart attacks. Diesel emissions are thought to be disproportionately responsible for pumping out ultra-fine particles, making people living or working close to major transport routes especially vulnerable.[/quote] [url=http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/conditions/05/09/air.pollution/index.html... enemy spurs health worries Asia confronts growing problem of ultrafine particles[/url] See also new thread I've started: [url=http://www.hkoutdoors.com/pollution/airborne-particulates-in-hong-kong-h... particulates in Hong Kong - health risks[/url]

I've done short article on this site, on ways it might be possible to clean air (partly, anyway) indoors - chiefly using filters; but also with help from plants.
Might be worth a read; comments welcome (tho ideally in a new thread).

[url=http://www.hkoutdoors.com/health-and-safety/cleaning-indoor-air.html]On smoggy days, can we clean the air indoors?[/url]

I sent the following letter to the editor of the South China Morning Post; edited version appeared on Friday 27 October:

Three months into the Hong Kong Government's Action Blue Sky Campaign, we are shrouded below the greyest autumn skies I've seen - even on days when there are few or no clouds in the sky.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang has lately tried to obfuscate the issue, suggesting the air pollution problem is chiefly a matter of reduced visibility, and small particulates "may not affect us". Now, just as he seems befuddled by pollution, Mr Tsang may not be too familiar with the Internet, and a search engine called Google, but to help him I have employed both to look for information on "respirable suspended particles". And I have readily found information indicating they indeed affect our health.

For instance, in a report by CNN, I found: 'According to an article in "Heart," the journal of the British Cardiac Society: "Epidemiology has clearly shown a link between increases in particulate air pollution and deaths and admissions caused by heart failure, myocardial infarction and arrhythmia."

'While scientists have yet to fully explain exactly how the presence of the ultra-fine pollutants causes increased heart disease, "the association of air pollution with cardiac mortality and morbidity is beyond doubt," the journal says.

'Many pollution researchers believe vehicle exhausts pump out microscopic specks of carbon which are coated with chemicals such as chromium, peroxide and hydrocarbons resulting from the burnt fuel.'

Given such information, we might hope "strong government" would result in robust action, not simply yet more talking, with some moves towards more fuel efficient vehicles even as the government opts to buy gas-guzzling luxury cars, and plans more highways, and the huge bridge to Zhuhai.

The huge bridge scheme should be abandoned if the government is serious about the Action Blue Sky Campaign. For not only will the bridge increase road traffic, especially container vehicles, in western Hong Kong, it is also aimed at spurring development on the west shores of the Pearl River. This increased development will in turn increase air pollution, condemning us to ever greyer skies, and a rising toll from noxious gases, and particulates.

The CNN report - which I also cited in post above- is at:
[url=http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/conditions/05/09/air.pollution/index.html... enemy spurs health worries
Asia confronts growing problem of ultrafine particles[/url]

Last month set the record for Hong Kong Observatory's tally of number of hours in a month with "reduced visibility" - ie "visibility below 8 kilometres when there is no fog, mist, or precipitation": a whopping 546 hours - almost 18 hours per day, recorded at HK International Airport.

Records from the HK Observatory (since 1968) and Hong Kong International Airport (since 1997) show highest record monthly totals for hours with reduced visibility are all from 2002: indeed, only one monthly record dates from 2002.

At HK Obs, the numbers of hours with reduced visibillity have increased markedly in recent years. Until 1980, the highest annual total was 388 hours. It wasn't till 1994 (503 hours) that an annual total exceeded 500 hours; yet since then, the annual total has climbed sharply, first passing 1000 in 2003 (1117 hours), then reaching 1570 hours in 2004 and 1503 hours last year.

At the airport, the annual total for hours with reduced visibility reached 2438 hours last year.

As you might expect, totals are markedly lower in summer, when cleaner southerly breezes tend to blow.

So, Donald Tsang - the government has a few challenges if to make progress with the Action Blue Sky campaign.

[url=http://www.hko.gov.hk/cis/statistic/hko_redvis_statistic_e.htm]Number of hours of Reduced Visibility observed at the Hong Kong Observatory since 1968[/url]
[url=http://www.hko.gov.hk/cis/statistic/hka_redvis_statistic_e.htm]Number of hours of Reduced Visibility observed at the Hong Kong International Airport since 1997[/url]

[quote]HONG KONG (XFN-ASIA) - The chairman of Hong Kongs stock exchange has warned that worsening air quality here is a threat to the territorys competitiveness, the Financial Times reported on its website.

You hear pretty often that young people with young families are reluctant to come to Hong Kong because of the quality of the air, Ronald Arculli said in an interview with the FT. We need to have quality people servicing the market from all walks of life.

He said doctors advised sending his two young grandsons to live abroad on pollution-related medical grounds and they are now living in the Philippines. [/quote]
[url=http://www.forbes.com/business/feeds/afx/2006/11/19/afx3189162.html]Hong Kong stock exchange chairman warns of worsening pollution - report [/url]

[quote]Merrill Lynch is advising clients to sell Hong Kong office landlords in favour of Singapore's, saying the city's air pollution will prompt skilled talent to move further south. "Buy Singapore office landlords, sell Hong Kong office landlords," the US investment bank said in a report. "The government in HK is relatively powerless to address the true causes until Beijing gets tough. It could be a long and choking wait that many could choose not to endure." The long-term competitiveness of Hong Kong is in "some doubt" due to the poor air quality and potential exodus of highly skilled talent, especially from the financial service sector, who would chose to live elsewhere, the report said. "Official policy fails to recognise, and ultimately respond, to the competitive threat from Singapore," Merrill Lynch said. ...[/quote]Merrill downgrades HK office sector, cites pollution

Business comment article in UK's Independent looks at increasingly polluted China, including Hong Kong:

[quote]For anyone who has not been to Hong Kong for a while, the smog comes as a shock. It is all- pervading. In Hong Kong, the number of days with reduced visibility has tripled in the past three years, and most business people I met were thinking of leaving the city, fearing the effect pollution was having on their children. One recent survey discovered that 40 per cent of businesses were finding it harder to recruit overseas nationals because of this factor. Many ex-pats are relocating to Singapore.

Will Hong Kong, this thriving centre of capitalism, one day choke into extinction?

The problems come from the explosive growth of heavy industry upstream in the Pearl River Delta - where thousands of factories belch out smoke. The scale and speed with which this has happened is ample testimony to the "China effect".
[url=http://news.independent.co.uk/business/comment/article2150497.ece]Expert View: Message to China... wake up and smell the carbon[/url]

Another article on HK pollution in international media, this time UK's Daily Telegraph, includes:
At 25 C, ozone and other chemical pollutants turn from gas into smog – and day-time temperatures reach 25 C for much of the year in southern China. From that point, it takes 12 hours for the cloud formed to travel from the factories along the Pearl River in Guangdong, the Chinese province surrounding Hong Kong, to the island. Even when it is not warm, there are other hazards. While ozone and other heat-affected compounds come from chemicals, there is also dust from the cement works and porcelain factories, and sulphur dioxide from the power stations, ... Christopher Hammerbeck, who runs the British Chamber of Commerce, said the environment was becoming a recruitment issue. "Families don't want to come here because they have read about the pollution."
Dark">http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/01/27/whongk27... cloud of pollution hangs over future of Hong Kong Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/01/27 14:16

Via googling, just come across summary of paper on recent study on air pollution across Pearl River Delta, inc Hong Kong:
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was measured for 4 months during 2002-2003 at seven sites located in the rapidly developing Pearl River Delta region of China, an area encompassing the major cities of Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The 4-month average fine particulate matter concentration ranged from 37 to 71 ug/m3 in Guangdong province and from 29 to 34 ug/m3 in Hong Kong. Main constituents of fine particulate mass were organic compounds (24-35% by mass) and sulfate (21-32%). ... The vicinity of Guangzhou is determined to be a major source area influencing regional concentrations of PM2.5 ... In addition, it appears that sources outside of the Pearl River Delta contribute a significant fraction of overall fine particulate matter in Hong Kong and Guangdong province. This is evident in the relatively high PM2.5 concentrations observed at the background sites of 18 ug/m3 (Tap Mun, southerly flow conditions) and 27 ug/m3 (Conghua, northerly flow conditions).
Source">http://www.thesalmons.org/lynn/gaylehk-abs.html]Source areas and chemical composition of fine particulate matter in the Pearl River Delta Region of China Note that even the figure for Tap Mun during southerlies is significant, when look at new US study showing fine particulates boost risks of heart attacks and strokes: Air">http://www.webmd.com/content/Article/131/118127.htm?pagenumber=1]Air Pollution Linked to Heart Deaths Risk May Be Higher Than Previous Studies Suggest

News article on bbc site includes:
There are two main sources of air pollution in Hong Kong. In terms of sheer tonnage, most of the air pollution comes from factories in the Pearl River Delta across the border, and it is the particulates they emit that cause the haze. But this comes in concentrated spurts. The rest of the time it is local sources - vehicle emissions, power plants and marine traffic - that are at the root of the problem. Christine Loh, head of the think tank Civic Exchange, says this means that blame cannot just be shifted over the border, and that the government has been slow to act. "So far, the government is in denial. It's not that the government is not doing anything. It's a question of whether it is doing enough, fast enough," she said. Even the pollutants that drift over the border are in one sense "made in Hong Kong" - many of the 70,000 factories in the Pear River Delta are owned by Hong Kong businesses. Serious cost "Pollution is responsible for serious chronic disease and premature death on a daily basis," said Anthony Hedley, professor of community health at the University of Hong Kong.
Pollution">http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6768977.stm]Pollution clouds Hong Kong's future

Yesterday's Sunday Morning Post had lead news item titled "Fund firms 'driven out of polluted HK' "

Mentioned that some funds have chosen to move headquarters to or set up in Singapore, in part because of worries over air pollution in Hong Kong, and its impacts on staff members' children. Though no official comments, insiders at several of the companies said pollution had been a major factor.

Good quote from an unnamed senior manager:

[quote]You get to a point where you don't want your children growing up with gas masks on.[/quote]

Again some international coverage of air pollution in Hong Kong, this time on Reuters Alertnet. Maybe some day the govt will decide to really act, rather than talk; or maybe will stick to telling us of InAction Blue Sky, and boasting of improving air quality when get clean breezes from over S China Sea (even though at same time, urban air quality still poor/bad along streets).
Hong Kong's air pollution is making it more difficult for companies to attract foreign staff to the territory, a survey released on Sunday by the city's American Chamber of Commerce shows. In the survey, which covered responses from 89 chamber members, 51 percent of respondents said they had experienced difficulty recruiting professionals to come and work in Hong Kong and 70 percent said they knew of professionals who had declined to work in the territory because of the poor quality of the environment. Given the deteriorating air quality, 57 percent of survey respondents indicated their companies were likely in future to invest more money elsewhere instead of Hong Kong.
HK">http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HKG268190.htm]HK pollution problem deters expats - AmCham You can download pdf file of the seven-page report from: Environment">http://www.amcham.org.hk/content/view/5681/502/]Environment Survey Report

Remember a few weeks back, when there was a period of blue skies and clear air as breezes blew in from S China Sea (yet still plenty of grot in roadside air) - and a bureaucratic buffoon stood up and announced that measures to combat HK air pollution were working? Well, here we are a short time later, and with northeast monsoon wafting airborne crap in from border, it's horribly murky outdoors. Current">http://www.epd-asg.gov.hk/eindex.php]Current API page of Env Protection Department shows "high" air pollution at all stations - even Tap Mun, out in Tolo Channel, which I figure is not affected by HK city pollution with northeast winds. But can we expect any of our bureaucrats to emerge from their air-conditioned offices to tell us the Action Blue Sky campaign launched by HK government has so far been a massive disaster, an utter flop and no more than a limp-wristed PR campaign with little but hot air? Any one ranking high in the Env Protection Department about to hold a press conference, tell us the air is still filthy and disgusting and vile and an insult to Hong Kong's attempts to be a World City? Or how about some official popping round to a hospital or two, finding people who have respiratory problems exacerbated by pollution - perhaps even finding some of the 2000-plus individuals who will be killed by air pollution this year, and saying, "We're really sorry about this. Sorry about the greed and the money grubbing and the corruption and the cheapskate overseas buyers and the lack of accountability of officials in Hong Kong and China. We're sorry you and your family and your friends can't enjoy what's surely among the most basic of human rights - the right to breathe clean air." Of course such things won't happen. We can expect our bureaucratic "leaders" to remain in their bunkers; with one or two perhaps ready to emerge next summer, when we just might enjoy another 2-3 week window of southerly breezes and clean air. Three weeks, in a whole year - perhaps that's now about all we really manage; otherwise, a clear day here, a day there; and long spells of smog, smog, smog. (And, in case you haven't guessed, I'm not happy about it.)

The bureaucrat I mentioned above is - I see from letter to SCMP, then some googling - Edward Yau Tang-wah, relatively newly appointed Secretary for the Environment. Once installed, Yau was quick to follow some days of real blue skies with boast about Hong Kong actually achieving some success with reducing air pollution. Hello Edward (avid HK Outdoors reader that you are!) - I wonder if you've ventured outside lately? Maybe even now you're preparing press release to say HK air remains shamefully, obscenely filthy - and even admitting there's hardly a darn thing you can do about it, not when nearby China, and even Donald Tsang, hell-bent on "progress" through same old, same old factories and concrete and so on. Maybe, though, you are to be pitied a little, Edward, for reading your background it appears you entered the job with little environmental knowledge - and maybe zero experience - as far as I can see. Here is your background info, Mr Edward Yau Tang-wah:
Mr Yau has served in various bureaux and departments, including the former Security Branch, the former City and New Territories Administration, the former Health and Welfare Branch, the former Transport Branch, Correctional Services Department and the former Finance Branch. He was Deputy Director-General of Trade (later renamed Deputy Director-General of Trade and Industry) from January, 1999, to May, 2001, and Director-General of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Washington from May, 2001, to April, 2004. He has been Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower since April, 2004.
Senior">http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/200602/03/P200602030167.htm]Senior Appointments - hardly suggests you know, or care, much about the environment, so your silly statement in July maybe understandable. Though statement perhaps helps explain why you came last in recent poll of how our government people were doing: http://hkupop.hku.hk/english/release/release492.html The real problem, then, perhaps lies above you. Say, with Donald Tsang - who seemed so proud of the Action Blue Sky Campaign, yet is likewise very very quiet on days with grotty air like this. Your appointment, Edward, plus rather low ranking of Environmental portfolio, helps show that environment is not really a government priority: over 2000 people a year may die from filthy air, but most die out of sight, and far out of the government's mind. This shot from shortly after lunchtime today; was there a cloud in the sky? - hard to tell at the time, with all the crud around. (Maybe some mist, too; again, hard to tell) Now, just started to rain; will clean the air somewhat, before next waves of particulates. IMAGE(<a href="http://www.hkoutdoors.com/components/com_joomlaboard/uploaded/images/airpollution15sept07.jpg)">http://www.hkoutdoors.com/components/com_joomlaboard/uploaded/images/air...

With northerlies/northeasterlies persisting, and no rain for what seems ages, foul air pollution seems never ending at present; and - of course! - Edward Yau hasn't made any utterances on the issue. Checking Env Protection Dept site, can see that air pollution is "High" at all stations (well, very high at two), with respirable suspended particulates the main contributor. Reflecting fact this is a regional issue, even at Tap Mun out in Tolo Harbour, the API is horribly high. Here's latest chart - showing pollution level stuck at nigh on 100. [img]http://www.hkoutdoors.com/images/fbfiles/images/TapMunAPI8Dec07.gif[/img]

It may not be the kind of White Christmas people tend to dream of, but looks like we could have some days of white yet cloudless skies over Xmas - thanks to massive amounts of suspended particulates (which are invading our lungs in HK as I write) Here, the sun virtually setting in mid-afternoon yesterday, because of the murk. Just utterly horrendous, and shameful (yet how many with power to do anything major about air pollution feel any sense of shame re this?).


Having spent 30 days in the Maldives, training hard running etc, I attempted my first 2 hr run on Sat morning up on Ma On Shan....pollution symptoms - immediate, sore throat/swollen glands..and felt so lethargic and tired.....

Martin Williams's picture

Government spin doctors and ditherers re air quality standards won't be chuffed by yet another report in international media about our dire and dangerous air. Latest from AFP, includes:

In recent years, a thick haze originating from factories in southern China has enveloped Hong Kong for large chunks of the year, blocking views of its famous harbour and raising health fears.

Combined with the city's home-grown pollution, scientists and business leaders say it presents a serious economic risk to the financial hub, both for its ability to attract and retain talent and the associated health costs.

When Teena Goulet moved to Hong Kong in 1995 she thought she would never leave but five years after moving here, the keen outdoorswoman developed a chronic cough.
"I would have retired there," said Goulet, speaking by phone from her new home in California. "But when you cannot breath, it kind of tells you what to do."

A recent study commissioned by think tank Civic Exchange said one in five residents were considering leaving Hong Kong because of its dire air. Of the more than 1,000 people surveyed, 97 percent were local Chinese.

Michael DeGolyer, a political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University who did the study, said the mood was such that one "tipping point" could provoke an exodus, particularly among managers and administrators.

[Prof Anthony] Hedley, who is leaving Hong Kong after 21 years here partly over worries about the air -- he was diagnosed with adult onset asthma in his 60s -- said the government must wake up to the time bomb.

"(The question for the government is) how many premature deaths are you prepared to accept?" said Hedley.

Any tougher regulations are likely to face opposition from sections of the local business community, which operates around 55,000 factories in Guangdong.

Goulet, who is now planning a move to Japan, said such intransigence was short-sighted: "Hong Kong is choking on its own greed."

Hong Kong's economic growth spluttering on filthy air






Question... little off topic but the seletion of air purfiers in HK aren't the best. Is it ok and possible to buy one in the US and ship into Hong Kong? Air purifiers consider electronics? as I know electronics can't be imported.

Martin Williams's picture

I'd never thought of doing this; surely not such an issue if one for personal use. Maybe try it and see!

Martin Williams's picture

from today's South China Morning Post:

Hong Kong's roadside pollution levels were the worst ever last year, according to the Environmental  Protection Department.
Readings at the three roadside monitoring stations in Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok showed that pollution levels were above the 100 mark more than 20 per cent of the time. This was 10 times worse than in 2005, when very high readings were recorded only 2 per cent of the time.

Exposure to bad air pollution can cause or aggravate respiratory problems or heart disease.

Environmentalists renewed their calls for the immediate introduction of new air quality objectives, claiming that the government had deliberately delayed their introduction to ease the way for major infrastructure projects.

The department blamed the figures on unfavourable weather conditions, worsening background pollution and the ageing vehicles on our streets.

It said a number of measures were in the pipeline to improve air quality, while the new air quality objectives would be tabled to the legislature as soon as possible.

At the roadside stations, hourly readings are taken throughout the year on major pollutants such as  respirable suspended particles and nitrogen oxides. A reading over 100 means at least one pollutant fails the air quality objectives.

The station in Central showed the worst figures, with excessive readings a quarter of the time, followed by Causeway Bay at 21 per cent, and Mong Kok at 17 per cent.

The total number of hours with excessive readings was even more than in 2010, when a sandstorm hit the city in March and pushed up the figures. In that year the three stations had an average excess API reading of 17 per cent.

Pollution readings at 11 general stations, which reflect more background and regional pollution, however, remained steady and similar to previous years.

The department said increased nitrogen dioxide levels at the roadside and poor weather conditions were behind the worsening air pollution readings. While other pollutants such as sulphur dioxide have fallen, the department said the nitrogen dioxide level by the roadside has reached the highest since 1999, at 123 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

It said the increase was related to the formation of photochemical smog, which was more active last year because there was 16 per cent more sunshine. The lack of rainfall, down by almost 40 per cent on 2010, was another unfavourable factor as it lessened the removal of pollutants from the air.

To combat the nitrogen dioxide pollution, a department spokeswoman said, catalytic reduction devices were being tested on older buses, while remote sensing technology would be used to strengthen the control of petrol and LPG vehicles.

James Middleton of Clear the Air said people did not need reminders from the department to tell them that air quality was getting worse, and officials were obviously turning a blind eye even at the health risk to themselves and their children.

"The government servants working for the EPD have children too - they share the filth in our air. The deliberate prevarication obviously comes from the very top," Middleton said. "This is a complete disrespect and disregard of the duty of care the administration owes to the health of the people of Hong Kong."

Middleton said he suspected the government's failure to update air quality objectives enacted 24 years ago was deliberate so that infrastructure projects such as a third airport runway and waste incinerator could pass environmental impact studies.

In a separate set of monitoring  results, on the concentration of fine particles, those with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns, the annual  average roadside reading at both Central and Mong Kok marginally failed the proposed new air quality standard of 35 micrograms.

The department has not published the data, but the figures were obtained recently by Clear the Air. Fine particles are not a statutory air pollutant at present. Scientists say these particles can infiltrate the blood vessels and lungs, causing more damage than larger particles.

The department said the average concentration of fine particles at monitored locations had declined by more than a quarter over the past five years. It also said at least 60 per cent of the fine particles were generated across the border.


Martin Williams's picture

S China Morning Post article:

Hong Kong is lagging behind the mainland when it comes to tackling air pollution, a think tank says in a summary of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's performance in office.
The conclusion from Civic Exchange came after the environment minister said on Wednesday that the city would measure pollutants smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) at all its monitoring stations by March, a week after Beijing pledged to make similar data publicly available.

Former lawmaker Christine Loh Kung-wai, of Civic Exchange, said the mainland's recent launch of a consultation to upgrade air quality objectives had put pressure on the Hong Kong government, which had yet to update its 24-year-old objectives despite Tsang's pledge to do so last year.

"The mainland is much more aggressive than Hong Kong in dealing with setting air quality objectives," she said. "This has happened because Hong Kong's senior officials lack the understanding and courage to set demanding [objectives] and to use them as a tool to address the epidemic of public health impacts."

Beijing will publish its PM2.5 data by January 23, Xinhua reported last week. The announcement came after the US embassy in Beijing began releasing its own PM2.5 readings via Twitter.

Civic Exchange's head of environmental strategy, Mike Kilburn, said though many mainland cities would take years to reach the new emissions targets - released recently for public consultation - the central government had set targets with the aim of driving down pollution levels.

By contrast, Hong Kong set less stringent targets that were easier to achieve, perhaps for political reasons, Kilburn said.

Citing figures from the University of Hong Kong's Hedley Environmental Index, Loh said more than 7,200 local deaths had been connected to air pollution in the seven years Tsang had been at the city's helm.

Dr Wong Ming-chit, of the School of Public Health at HKU, agreed with the group's conclusion that the administration's ability and commitment to improve air quality - roadside and shipping pollution in particular - was questionable.

"These are problems that haven't been solved for many years. And these are pressing issues because people's health is at stake," he said. "When you think about it, several thousands deaths is a big number. The public panic even when several people die from bird flu."

The Environmental Protection Department last week revealed that roadside air pollution levels last year were the worst on record.

A consultation on updating Hong Kong's standards ended two years ago and the government vowed to put the new objectives before the legislature as soon as possible.

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

These smaller particles enter the lungs and contribute to many health problems including acute respiratory symptoms and child bronchitis, cause premature death owing to their toxicity, and cause cardiovascular illnesses, according to various studies.

Martin Williams's picture

Also SCM Post (laisee):

The latest report from Civic Exchange on Hong Kong's air quality, "Air Quality: Report Card of the Donald Tsang Administration (2005-2012)", is a damming indictment of the chief executive's efforts to improve Hong Kong's noxious air.
It points to a litany of half measures, outright failures, dilatoriness, evasion and poor governance. You do not get a sense from reading this report that the government is in any hurry to do anything meaningful about improving the quality of the air we breathe. The impression is one of a government bending over backwards not to improve it. Its prevarication over the introduction of new air quality objectives (AQOs) being one example.

Hong Kong's were set in 1987 and at the time were close to those of the World Health Organisation. The AQOs set the limits for emissions above which public health is impaired. The WHO has since revised its guidelines twice, while Hong Kong has implacably retained the outdated AQOs. The effect of this, the report says, is that the WHO guidelines are frequently exceeded in Hong Kong at the roadside by a factor of four or five times.

Unsurprisingly this has impacted on public health. According to the Hedley Index, which uses a peer-reviewed methodology to measure the effect of air pollution on health, smog has directly resulted in some 7,240 premature deaths, 528,388 avoidable hospital bed days and 49.26 million avoidable doctor visits from January 2005 to December 2011. The index assesses the cost of the dirty air to Hong Kong at HK$15.43 billion during the period. These figures have not been challenged by the government or medical practitioners.

The government makes much of its one big success, which is in sharply lowering sulphur dioxide emissions that was achieved by making Hong Kong's power companies fix scrubbers to power stations. The government tries to pretend that Hong Kong's air pollution is largely a regional problem and can only be solved in collaboration with officials in the Pearl River Delta. In so doing, it seeks to sidestep the issue that the most concentrated air pollution occurs at street level largely as a result of dirty engines in buses and trucks. The Hong Kong government can solve this issue. Instead, it drags its feet and wastes time with watered down idling-engine legislation.

One point the Civic Exchange reports spells out very clearly is that government reluctance to introduce new air quality objectives is largely because they would make it impossible to proceed with new infrastructure projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, the third runway and possibly the new incinerator. This is because each project requires an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report that has to be approved, and the AQOs are a key part of these reports. The EIA for the bridge had to be finished to secure approval, but it will be harder to fudge EIAs in future, Civic Exchange warns. The impression given by the government is that it is playing a kind of administrative game, but seems oblivious to the harmful effects of air pollution on public health. In stark contrast to the Hong Kong government's approach of seeking to avoid setting targets as a basis for policy, the mainland has recently set aggressive new AQOs with a view to driving policy. Civic Exchange has a second report entitled, "Principles and Measures To Improve Air Quality Policy Recommendations for a New Administration". Find both at www.civic-exchange.org[/quote]


Martin Williams's picture

Daily Telegraph article:

Last year, a report from office supplier Regus revealed that an astonishing three-quarters of companies in Hong Kong saw pollution as a problem in recruiting and retaining international talent, while a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong found that nearly half (48 per cent) of its members knew of professionals who had left to escape the contaminated air.
Sylvia, a British banker who did not wish to give her full name, claims to know many expats who have returned to their home countries because of pollution, or asked for transfers to other major Asian hubs such as Singapore – largely, she says, due to health concerns.
 “A friend of mine used to get plenty of headaches and migraines when he lived in Hong Kong for a few years; when he returned to the US the migraines stopped overnight," she explains. "Another friend's husband has a job here in Hong Kong but since his wife and daughter have asthma, they live in Singapore and he commutes here during the week.”
How much damage the pollution issue could end up wreaking on Hong Kong's attractiveness as a business centre is subject to hot debate. Sylvia admits that there is a long-term risk that "Hong Kong will lose top talent and industry to its rival Singapore,” but believes that even if many expats leave, the economy will not be seriously hurt.
“There's hundreds of Westerners arriving every day,” she says simply. “The downturn in Europe means there are more and more people seeking work, and more companies relocating their staff here. Hong Kong's economy has always been better than most; it experiences downturns but then it recovers very quickly.”
Hans Leijten, the regional vice president for Regus in East Asia is not so sure however. “Singapore is seen as a much greener and cleaner alternative, and it is gaining a competitive edge particularly when it comes to expats with families,” he warns.
"While Hong Kong's economy and job market are still extremely strong and it remains a top destination for expatriates, the quality of the environment and its effect on their health is certainly weighing heavily on the minds of those working there."

Is Hong Kong's pollution driving expats away?


I just created a new petition and I hope you can sign -- it's called: Cleaner air for Hong Kong

This issue is very important to me, and together we can do something about it! If you sign and then share with your friends and contacts, we'll soon reach our goal of 100 signatures and build pressure to get the decision we want.

Click here to read more about it and sign:

Campaigns like this always start small, but they grow when people like us get involved -- please take a second right now to help out by signing and passing it on.

Thanks so much,
Nigel Pearson

Martin Williams's picture

Hi Nigel:

I've signed; worthwhile cause but maybe English could be revised a bit - including to clarify if you mean clean the air thro ensuring cleaner ship exhaust fumes [maybe with info on how this should be achieved]

Also, I'd think far better if also have Chinese text.