There is a severe worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 over the past few months and a bunch of public health measurements are carried out to reduce the spread of diseases globally.
In the meantime, travel ban and social distancing reduce the city’s traffic flow. The shutdown of factories and city lockdown lower industrial emissions. All the measurement leads to a significant drop in pollutants concentrations. Many cities have experienced a remarkable improvement in air quality. It has shown the human societies really can transform overnight when each of us takes actions.
On the other hand, some research has found the long-term exposure to air pollution could contribute to higher numbers of COVID-19 fatalities. It is not surprising as polluted air has long been associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome and many kinds of illness, such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and the risk of mental health problems.
The medical system in Hong Kong has been barely survived with the aid of people power flattening the epidemic curve. However, the poor air quality at street level is still a major threat to public health in the city.
Community-based Air Quality measurement
Clean Air Network carried out street air measurement programs for several weeks in Sham Shui Po and Central. The measurement used diffusion tubes to monitor the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) level at roadside and locations near the school campus.
The report surprisingly reveals the pollution level still exceeds the WHO safety standard and poses a threat to people’s health in Central during the pandemic period with relatively low traffic. A multipronged strategy should be urgently taken against air pollution in order to reduce its health risk and lower the fatality rate of COVID-19.
It is expected the pollution would be risking back after easing lockdown as everyone hopes for a robust economic recovery. But the city should not return to normal on environmental health. We have seen positive changes in people attitudes regarding environmental pollution problems because of the pandemic experience. More people start to understand it doesn’t worth enjoying the economic prosperity while breathing toxic air that destroys our health. Good air quality is fundamental to our well-being and social sustainability.
Empowerment and Transformation
The team of Clean Air Network strives to raise public awareness about air pollution and environmental health literacy related to dirty air. “Getting Ahead” campaign is underway, intending to reduce roadside pollution by transforming the city’s bus fleet to zero emission. The ongoing “Let Our Children Breathe” and Street-level Air Quality measurement empower young people to meet the environmental challenges starting from their communities.
We are also designing a new personalization air sensor to strengthen the citizen air monitoring network for better data visualization. The data provides us with valuable insights to seek feasible solutions for tackling the pollution problem.
The COVID-19 crisis has inspired people to rethink about the way of living and business model. Most people like you and I would love to create a greener and healthier environment for our future generations to live on. The Government should take a more active role in population health improvement by achieving good air quality for the whole region in the next decade.