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  • Aug 29, 2014
  • Updated: 5:56pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 2:52am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 11:30am

Hong Kong's roadside pollution is affecting children's lungs


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

A new survey shows there is a correlation between lung conditions in children and roadside pollution. The study by Polytechnic University shows that the lungs of children exposed to higher levels of roadside pollution did not function as well as those exposed to lower levels.

The survey, which was overseen by Professor Hung Wing-tat and is due to be released next month, also found that the biggest source of the roadside pollution children are exposed to is school buses, followed by private cars. Hung said many of the 20-seater and 40-seater school buses had old diesel engines. The lungs of children travelling by public buses, minibuses and rail were less affected, while the lungs of those who walked to school were least affected. The survey also showed levels of roadside pollution near some schools that were significantly higher than World Health Organisation guidelines.

The pollutants include the so-called BTEX volatile organic compounds benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, which are found in petroleum derivatives - and some of which are carcinogenic. The survey was done on children between 10 and 13 years old in 12 schools in the city, although none were in the most polluted urban areas. Nevertheless, in one class 25 per cent of the children suffered from asthma, and in another 15 per cent had the condition.

"These are high levels," Hung said.

The survey measured lung performance, and the pollution levels in the transport children took to travel to school and on the streets they walked along. The micro environments of their homes and their medical histories were also taken into consideration.

Hung said that smoking in the home also had a significant impact on the children's lung condition. In one class, there was smoking in 60 per cent of pupils' homes. Admittedly, this a fairly small survey, but its findings should worry the parents of young children. The Hong Kong government has ignored the problem for far too long.


Shenzhen: no smoking

We gather that Shenzhen lawmakers earlier this week approved sweeping anti-smoking legislation, a significant upgrade to the 1998 regulations, which banned smoking in some public places and restaurants as well as in hospital waiting rooms and kindergartens.

The new law, which comes into effect next March, imposes a comprehensive ban on all indoor public places, workplaces, and public transport in Shenzhen. Outdoor areas, such as those in primary and middle schools and maternity and children's hospitals, should also be smoke-free. Except in designated smoking spots, outdoor areas of all hospitals, public parks, stadiums and historic properties should also be smoke-free. Individuals violating the law and refusing to listen to venue staff will face a penalty from 50 yuan (HK$63) to 500 yuan.

Venue owners violating the law will first be warned, and subsequently face a penalty of up to 30,000 yuan for repeated violations. The Shenzhen law also puts a tough penalty of 30,000 yuan on cigarette vendors who sell to minors.

Under the 1998 regulations, smokers who violated the ban were fined 20 yuan, but the People's Daily reported earlier this year that nobody was ever fined. The number of organisations enforcing these laws has also been increased.

Interestingly, the Shenzhen legislation targets venue owners, something which Hong Kong legislation does not. In Hong Kong, bar owners have a responsibility to discourage drunkenness and prostitution, but surprisingly not smoking. Since Shenzhen has adopted this practice, maybe it will shame Hong Kong into taking similar action.


Uniquely Goldman Sachs

Those looking to work at Goldman Sachs will find a handy guide on the firm's website about how to deal with the interview. Abigail, a recruiter in the New York office, says that a well-formatted resume is important. Not unnaturally, you should have a high-level understanding of what the firm does, and have done research on its culture and business principles. Abigail adds that following up is important: "Most follow-up e-mails thank the interviewer for their time, and also highlight something unique that the person took away from the conversation."


Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com


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This article is now closed to comments

I propose to all parents to make sure their children at least wear a mask when outside of their home. Logically wear them daily until the air has improved. Remember the SARS? And remember how worry the government was when everyone walking around in a mask? Just do that. I make sure I will have people selling masks at every street corner.
This just shows the level of misunderstanding
the damaging particulates are PM1 ultrafines and PM2.5
There are 30x PM2.5 diameter particulates in the width of a human hair
they pass into the lungs unhindered by nose hairs and cilia and have the same consistency as tobacco smoke hence the wording RSP = respirable suspended particulates
A standard mask will not stop them unless it is a Niosh woven nanofiber version
Even in university campuses, I have noticed that buses that pick up staff leave their engines off. Is this not illegal to say the least?
Nothing done in the mainland can shame HK even if it benefits HKers: skin's much too thick. And good luck with Shenzhen's enforcement of the no smoking laws... Probably as much teeth as HK's no idling and illegal parking laws.
at least they have shown commitment to legislation in Shenzhen and focus on the venue licensees and child addictors, unlike here
This place is fuxd as long as this pack of fools are in power
The Government is unable to introduce any positive legislation since they have no credibility & even decent legislation would be opposed on principal by the dixkheads in Legco


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