Experts press case for a new alert system to replace the current index, which they say fails to spell out the hazards of inhaling toxic chemicals and particles
August 3, 2012
Air pollution experts pressured for a new alert system to warn the public about related health risks after Hong Kong’s air pollution levels maintained what green activists called “life-threatening” levels for a second consecutive day.
Air pollution index readings in Central roadside saw a peak of 212 at 7am yesterday, the highest ever recorded in Hong Kong with the exception of a sandstorm in 2010. Roadside pollution levels in Causeway Bay also hit a historic high of 200.
According to The Hedley Environmental Index, a real-time tracker of Hong Kong’s air pollution, yesterday’s extreme levels would lead to more than 17 premature deaths and over 800 hospital admissions. Despite the threat to public health, Wong said the government’s alert system failed to link pollution levels with health risks.
Erica Chan, from the Clean Air Network, said environment officials were slack in warning the public about the severe pollution.
“They should have sent a scientist to explain the matter, as most people don’t quite understand what the air pollution index means,” Chan said. “They could offer more suggestions specific to different groups of people, particularly street workers.”
An EPD spokesman said the department had an established mechanism to inform the public about air pollution readings. It would consider revamping the API system when it upgraded the air quality objectives. The city’s air quality standards have not been revised since 1987.
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