More people die when Hong Kong air dirtier

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    Press Release from Clean Air Network:


    A new study unveiled today by HKU’s Department of Community Medicine demonstrates that there is a direct link between visibility and the health impacts of air pollution.

    Until now, scientists have had to rely on epidemiological research (illness in communities), clinical observation (sick people needing care), and molecular biology, to determine the health effects of air pollution. Now, however, environmentalists and public health experts have a new way to measure the potential damage from air pollution.

    The study, which was conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, shows that, for every loss of 6.5 kilometers of visibility, there is a 1.13 percent increase in all natural causes of death, accounting for about 450 deaths per year.

    To illustrate the point further, these images demonstrate the visibility and health ratio. The visibility pictured in the first image is 23 km. In the second picture, the visibility is 5 km. The respective attributable deaths for scenarios #1 and #2 are 475 and 1740. The significantly diminished visibility of the second scenario results in a much higher death toll.

    Hong Kong’s visibility has steadily worsened since 1990 with the number of low visibility days spiraling ever upward. From 2007-2010, the mean visibility was 12.6 km, making the number of attributable deaths equal to 1200.

    In light of this new research, diminishing visibility does not just result in a “hazy” harbour view, but also results in a potentially serious loss of life and health for all Hong Kong residents.

    Clean Air Network CEO, Joanne Ooi, heralded the study for two reasons, “Most disturbingly, it confirms our common sense perception that this “haze” is not a random, arbitrary event, but mostly the result of man-made pollution, especially NOx and PM from vehicles. Looking out the window can now function as a reliable way to gauge the danger to one’s health. I also congratulate the HKU team for this scientific breakthrough in the measurement of air pollution, which will benefit jurisdictions all over the world.”

    In light of the strong correlation between visibility and PM10, PM2.5 and NOx, demonstrated by the study, it is disingenuous and potentially dangerous for the Hong Kong Government and Observatory to term these low visibility days “hazy” when we now know that they are not purely geo-climactic weather events, but the direct result of man-made pollution. NOx and PM are signatures of traffic-related pollution.

    This study has helped prove that Hong Kong is not experiencing a harmless fog or haze, but actually a mist comprising of microscopic particles which can lodge deep in our lungs, brain and heart. We therefore call upon the Government to:

    •    Announce new Air Quality Objectives as promised by the Chief Executive in his policy address of 2008;

    •    Set up a special unit within the Environmental Protection Department or Department of Health to devise air quality policy, standards and warnings, utilizing a health-based approach;

    •    Eliminate all pre-Euro III commercial diesel vehicles as soon as possible because their contribution to roadside emissions is grossly disproportionate. (A pre-Euro truck pollutes 34 times more than a new Euro V truck.)

    About Clean Air Network: Clean Air Network (CAN) is an independent NGO, founded in July 2009, which aims to educate the public about the health impacts of air pollution. CAN is the #1 NGO exclusively dedicated to the issue of Hong Kong air pollution.

    Some more info – including link to a presentation with graphics n images – on HKU site.

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