PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2011, 12:00am


Fears over mercury risk unfounded

I refer to the letter from Lam Wai-leung ('Incandescent bulb ban is a bad idea', September 15).

Yes, historically, the amount of mercury per compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) was around 4 milligrams - about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. But with improved designs, the amount is now approaching 1.2mg in many lamps.

No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use.

The amount of mercury in CFLs is so small that even if all 290 million such bulbs sold in 2007 were sent to a landfill (versus recycled, as a worst case scenario), the overall release of mercury would add up to only 0.13 tonnes (130kg).

Mercury released into the air is the main way it gets into water and bio-accumulates in fish.

The Environmental Protection Agency in the US estimates that the country releases 104 tonnes of mercury emissions each year.

Most of these emissions come from coal-fired electrical power plants.

Even if all 290 million CFLs were sent to a landfill, it would add only 0.1 per cent to US mercury emissions caused by humans in a given year.

The greater threat from mercury comes from the heavy dependence on power generation and increased strain on our coal-fired power plants.

Electricity use is the main source of mercury emissions, as coal-fired power plants send mercury into the air as pollution.

CFLs use significantly less electricity than incandescent lights, hence they reduce the amount of mercury released into the environment through decreased power generation.

A coal-fired power plant will emit 13.6mg of mercury to produce the electricity required to use an incandescent light bulb, compared to 3.3mg for a comparable CFL.

That's 10mg of mercury emissions prevented through using a single CFL bulb.

Using CFLs actually reduces mercury exposure by an amount greater than the mercury found in the CFL itself.

Ralph Bishop, Pok Fu Lam

Recycling better than incinerator

Waste management is an urgent issue for all cities, especially those like Hong Kong which are growing at such a rapid pace.

Given the millions of tonnes of waste generated here every year, our landfills are nearing capacity. They have very little room left.

To alleviate the waste problem, the government is looking to the option of incineration. But the cost of building a facility will require a substantial investment and there will be side effects such as air pollution.

An incinerator will not solve our waste problems. To do that, we must have a comprehensive recycling strategy.

This offers an environmentally friendly and long-term solution.

The government must develop more recycling policies.

Liu Sinyu, Kwun Tong

Revive Home Ownership Scheme

I refer to the report 'Hongkongers pessimistic on price on flats', (September 22).

A University of Hong Kong survey found that public frustration over inflated property prices has grown.

Some respondents said that even saving regularly would not give them enough money to enable them to purchase their own property.

People should be entitled to have their own home. But ownership of an apartment is beyond the reach of most residents in this city. People on low incomes have no chance of ownership. It seems that is only possible for rich citizens. Unaffordable homes are a serious phenomenon in Hong Kong; I think it is high time the government introduced appropriate policies to tackle the problem. The administration has a responsibility to help people own a property.

More public housing should be provided. Also, it is time officials decided to resume the Home Ownership Scheme.

If the government does not take the necessary measures, then the wealth gap will get wider and the quality of life for many Hongkongers will deteriorate.

Polly Lam Po-yu, Hung Hom

Information available for young people

September 26 marked World Contraception Day.

This year's theme was on young people's right to seek accurate and balanced information about contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection.

Globally, unprotected sex among young people is on the increase and Hong Kong is no exception. E-mail inquiries that the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong receives from young people frequently focus on 'sexual behaviour' and 'failed contraception and unplanned pregnancy'.

A glut of information and mis-information on sex is just a mouse-click away, but these often confuse rather than clarify the complex issues involved. Youngsters fall for widely propagated hearsay and popular myths among their peers. We encourage youths to be wary of misleading claims and to choose reliable channels such as the Family Planning Association's website and service outlets for information and services on sexual and reproductive health.

When in doubt, they should seek appropriate help from parents, teachers, social workers or medical professionals whom they trust.

For parents, we advocate that sexuality education begins at home. Mutual trust and a close relationship with their children should be cultivated from an early age. Parental attitudes and behaviour deeply influence whether children are able to develop robust values and healthy interpersonal relationships in future.

To commemorate World Contraception Day 2011, the association presented a cartoon mini-site on our website (www.famplan.org.hk).

We invite youths to empower themselves to make informed decisions for their own sexual and reproductive health.

Dr Susan Fan, executive director, The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong

Do you really need a new iPhone?

With all the products it has introduced, including its iPhones and iPads, Apple has a large customer base.

The next product to come on to the market will be the iPhone 5.

Many people will want to purchase it, but it will be costly, especially for teenagers. They may have to pay as much as HK$5,000 and that is a lot of money for a student.

Their older model of phone probably still works, and yet they will simply throw it away, which is very wasteful.

Young people need to ask themselves if they really need to buy the iPhone 5. Also, many individuals use iPhones and iPads for long periods and this is not good for their eyes.

Esther Liu Tsz-ching, Mong Kok