Green group fumes over deadlier air pollution

Top News | Sophie Hui 12 Jan 2018

Air pollution-related deaths in Hong Kong jumped by more than 340 to a total of 1,849 last year, an environmental group said.

The Clean Air Network said air quality has been deteriorating for the past year and has harmed people's health. It has also led to a rise in medical expenditures.

The group, citing data from the Hedley Environmental Index of the University of Hong's School of Public Health, said the deaths linked to air pollution was 1,508 in 2016.

Campaign officer Winnie Tse Wing-lam said: "Even if one person dies due to air pollution, it is serious. You can see last year, on average, five people died due to air pollution every day. One more person died every day compared to the previous year," she said.

"The number is three to four times the number of SARS-related deaths in Hong Kong."

The group also said people had to see doctors more often and stayed in hospital longer as the number of doctor visits increased to 2.69 million from 2.26 million in 2016. The number of days spent in hospital also increased to 125,000 last year from 99,000 in 2016.

The group found that major air pollutants, - including nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, respirable suspended particles and fine suspended particles - were concentrated in the western part of Hong Kong.

It said higher traffic density led to heavier roadside air pollution as monitoring stations in Kwai Chung, Sham Shui Po and Tsuen Wan recorded the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide.

The levels recorded in all three districts exceeded the World Health Organization's safe level. Central and Western District, Tuen Mun, Eastern District and Kwun Tong also had the same problem.

In addition, air quality became worse last year in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok, where air pollutants increased by 9.5 percent, 4.4 percent and 4 percent respectively compared to 2016.

The group urged the government to set a target to control the growth of vehicle numbers and requested a stricter Air Pollution Control Ordinance and air quality objectives.

"It is not enough for the government to control the vehicle emissions, it also has to control the traffic flow," Tse said.

"The Environmental Bureau has to use more electric public vehicles, while the Transport Department has to set the target for reducing traffic."

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