Reply To: Hong Kong suffers Chronic Air Pollution

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. "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." … 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 "They are clearly outdated and offer no protection to the health of Hong Kong’s citizens," Wong said. …

Deadly cost of air pollution You can/could download the report from June 2006 listings at: Civic Exchange