Still time

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 1998, 12:00am

It is good to read that air pollution warnings are to be changed following studies which suggest that even 'safe' levels are harmful. We can continue to have endless discussions about the definition of what are 'safe' levels based on 'what can be achieved'.

Hong Kong is the ultimate example of achievement as an economic miracle and it will probably continue to surprise the world. However, the success of Hong Kong has unfortunately come with a dramatic decline in the quality of the environment. Hong Kong's legislators owe it to the people to act responsibly and before it is too late. We still have a chance not to turn into a Bangkok or Mexico City. I urge decision-makers to pay just a one-hour visit at lunch time, to the busy streets of Central or Causeway Bay. They will find a shocking change from their air-conditioned office.

Clearly, given the number of people who cover their faces, in a vain effort to keep the diesel fumes out of their lungs, it is clear that few are convinced about the current 'safe' levels.

What can be achieved? The answer depends on how legislators view the importance of the health, not only the wealth, of the people they represent. Mere compliance with current air quality standards does not protect the public. Any increase in the number of respirable suspended particles in the air elevates the death rate. The victims remain nameless, but they have been deprived of life all the same.