For Immediate Release
Hong Kong sees surge in pollutants at all monitoring stations
Clean Air Network advises public to avoid going outdoors
(August 1st 2012, Hong Kong) Using data from the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Clean Air Network (CAN) has found a sharp surge in all air pollutants across Hong Kong since yesterday afternoon. In the past 24-hours (July 31st , 4:00pm, to August 1st, 3:00pm), every single government monitoring station has shown levels of fine suspended particulates (PM2.5) that have surpassed the 24-hour average concentration level outlined by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). The roadside monitoring station in Causeway Bay recorded 24-hour average levels of PM2.5 of 77 micrograms per cubic meter, exceeding the WHO’s AQG (25 micrograms per cubic meter) by three times, and even exceeding Hong Kong’s new proposed air quality objective (75 micrograms per cubic meter), which is much laxer than the WHO’s AQGs (refer to Table 1). Levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were equally hazardous, with monitoring stations in Central, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay hitting one-hour average highs of 444 micrograms per cubic meter, 343 micrograms per cubic meter and 399 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively. The WHO’s recommended AQG for NO2 is 200 micrograms per cubic meter; Hong Kong’s roadside levels of nitrogen dioxide exceeded this figure by 1.7 to 2.2 times, indicating just how dangerous the air is (refer to Table 2).
In general, air quality in Hong Kong is better during the summer than in the winter, due to winds from the south blowing in fewer pollutants and the strong sea breezes enabling easier dispersal of local pollutants. Therefore, such high levels as we have seen yesterday and today are anomalies. PM2.5 are particulates less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and, due to their small size, are believed to be the most dangerous pollutants to one’s health. Long term exposure to PM2.5 can cause negative health effects such as increased risk of asthma/heart attacks, cognitive decline and even an increased risk of death from lung cancer. Pregnant women who breathe in high levels of PM2.5 are more inclined to experience premature births and higher infant mortality rates. Hong Kong’s NO2 levels mainly come from vehicle emissions and prolonged exposure to this pollutant can lead to adverse impacts on one’s respiratory system and damage to lung development and lung function in children. CAN urges the EPD to take urgent action to implement targeted measures, such as establishing low-emission zones and early implementation of an incentive scheme to scrap old commercial diesel vehicles, in order to adequately protect public health.
Erica Chan, campaign manager of CAN, states, “Although a major contributor to the current high levels of air pollution is external weather forces, we should note that locally-generated vehicle exhaust is the real root of this problem. The weather conditions only exacerbate the situation and are not the source of the high concentrations of pollutants. During days of poor air quality, such as these, CAN strongly recommends that members of the public avoid the roadside, and those suffering from respiratory or heart conditions be particularly vigilant in avoiding outdoor activities.”
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 harnessing public opinion to support the Hong Kong Government’s efforts to clean up air pollution in our city. We are conducting a 360° education campaign in all sectors of society to increase knowledge of how air pollution affects Hong Kong and its people. To learn more about our activities and the state of Hong Kong’s air, visit www.hongkongcan.org
For media enquiries, please contact:
Clean Air Network Campaign Manager
Tel: 3971 0106/ 9633 1943