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Letters to the Editor, March 24, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 4:49am

Worth looking at humanism of euthanasia

The superb award-winning film Amour now showing here made me think of two things.

First, that life for too many of Hong Kong's elderly is no bed of roses because, despite being one of the richest places in Asia, the government here is not doing enough to care properly for its aged and ageing population.

Secondly, like Switzerland and a couple of states in the US, Hong Kong could become a civilised Asian enclave that allows euthanasia for end-of-life patients who wish to be put out of their misery.

In the US, some doctors maintain medical files marked DNR ("Do not resuscitate"), and nowadays people can draw up what is known as living wills. These are documents declaring that the person does not wish to be rescued medically in case of incapacitation.

Not too long ago I had a brother stricken with Parkinson's disease, which rendered him paralysed and mute for several years before he died. If he'd had a living will, I'm sure he would not have wished to prolong his agony.

In Amour, the long-suffering husband took it upon himself to put an end to his beloved's suffering. That, I think, took great courage - and boundless love.

Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau


Ruffled by vet's advice about feathered pets

I refer to the "About Pets" column ("Furry friends need more than a home-alone life", March 17).

When combined with reading a similar article in the same column in November last year ("Small birds are an ideal fit for HK apartments"), they make for uncomfortable reading.

Veterinarian Dr Patricia Shuen, in the latter article, encourages the keeping of lovebirds, cockatiels and budgerigars in a cage where, at a minimum, it is big enough for the bird to fully extend its wings without touching the sides of the cage.

Granted she does go on to write: "Ideally, it is best for the bird's general well-being when it is able to fly when in the cage." The headline suggests that, because many people in the city live in inadequate housing, it is all right if their pets do, too.

At least in the About Pets column ("'Talking' birds have widespread appeal", March 3), we have Dr Isobel Jenkins saying that the of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of which she is part, "doesn't recommend keeping birds in cages, [as] they need to have the ability to fly freely".

In their natural habitat, birds forage for food, find mates, build nests and fly for hundreds - if not thousands - of miles.

The keeping of birds as pets seems thoroughly outdated. Just because we can breed birds or capture them from the wild, doesn't mean we should.

A. Davy-Hou, Sai Kung


Don't buy into the myth of 'toxic' LEDs

Robert Hanson is incorrect when he states that fluorescent and LED lamps both contain mercury ("Make trade in parallel goods fair for all", March 17). LED lamps are a "solid state" light-emitting electronic component that do not contain mercury and do not emit any UV light rays.

Dr Hanson's comments linking LED lamps with numerous health issues are gossip - there is not a single study to indicate otherwise.

Fluorescent lamps have been in use worldwide for more than 60 years. They are glass tubes filled with a gas mixture, with as little as 1.5 milligrams of mercury.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are just smaller. Britain's Health Protection Agency has conducted repeated and extensive testing over the last 20 years, and has stated that the very low levels of UV emissions do not present an acute nor significant chronic health hazard.

An 800-lumen LED lamp (the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent) from Philips or Cree uses only 10 watts (83 per cent energy savings) and now retails below US$15.

Additionally, major LED and commercial light-fixture makers are now offering office ceiling fixtures with a warranty of up to 10 years and higher energy efficiency than fluorescents.

A recent Reuters story states that if half of China's lights were LEDs, the electricity saved would be 2.5 times that of the annual output of the country's Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project by capacity.

Proper fluorescent bulb design and recycling are disposal issues.

Hong Kong's Electrical and Mechanical Services Department can and probably should regulate the quality of all fluorescent lamps that can be sold for use in Hong Kong, specifying the maximum mercury content and, as is done in other countries, minimum light output efficiencies as well.

Ralph Bishop, Pok Fu Lam


Funds best used for future educators

I refer to the letter from C. Chan ("Students' cash better spent on teachers", March 9). I am in general agreement with the idea that there are better ways to spend the HK$480 million (from the budget) to sponsor students - who might simply be attracted by the money - who want to study in universities abroad.

Your correspondent suggests using the money for in-service teachers so they can "study and learn something new". But I think it should be allocated to undergraduates who are studying any education-related degree and those studying for a postgraduate diploma in education, rather than in-service teachers.

Innovative ideas and education philosophy, in keeping with the New Senior Secondary curriculum, are needed.

Undergraduates and postgraduates with relevant qualifications can exert significant influence on the education sector.

Those students have a passion to teach - otherwise, they would not be choosing this programme.

Giving monetary support or resources of any kind to them will never be a waste as their dedication and enthusiasm to teach has already been ensured.

After two to three years, these pillars of society, especially in the field of education, would be mature enough to make significant contributions.

Unlike training in-service teachers, in which the results can be seen immediately, this approach is a rather long-term investment, but a worthy one.

With sufficient training and guidance, education graduates would stay in their career longer and have a significant impact.

Ryan Lee, Sai Kung


Impressed by pupils' art exhibition

Thursday, March 21 appeared to be the last day of an all-too-brief exhibition of photographic artworks on display in the lobby of the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui.

There has been much talk lately about encouraging public interest in the arts.

Well, here was an inspiring example of how enriching art can be, both for the creator and the viewer.

With the theme of a "Kaleidoscopic World", a group of students at St. Joseph's Primary School created a dazzling look at the world, both great and small as they saw it in Hong Kong.

The choice of subject matter and their stylish rendering was both captivating and inspiring. And the most surprising thing was that these talented and perceptive photographers are primary students aged eight to 12.

If the exhibition is actually extended I would urge readers to find a moment to visit this little exhibition.

I was charmed by the little guides in their school uniforms who carefully explained the works to visitors each afternoon, in both fluent Cantonese and English.

On seeing the confidence and freedom of expression so beautifully manifested by these young people under the exemplary guidance of their art teacher, gave me a surge of hope for the future of this city, where children such as these blossom.

This, I believe, is why art is vital.

Susannah Hirst, Mid-Levels


How cadaver donation can hurdle taboo

I refer to the report, "University urges public to donate bodies for research", March 4.

I think the main reason for the shortage of human cadavers for research and teaching is Chinese taboo.

Most of the people in Hong Kong still think that dead bodies should be kept intact. Only a few people are willing to donate their bodies - or even their organs - to science.

In addition, some people who want to donate their bodies face resistance from their families. This is why there are only three to five cadavers received by the medical faculty each year.

There is also a lack of promotion activities or advertisements to encourage this type of donation.

These kinds of topics are also seldom taught in primary and secondary schools.

The first "body donation day" organised by the University of Hong Kong is a great start.

There should be more of these activities to ease the shortage of human cadavers for research and teaching.

Crystal Chan Yuen-ying, Kwai Chung


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This article is now closed to comments

Regardless of differences in CFL and LED technology, both produce a type of light that harms humans - due to spectrum - hence they belong in the same category.
Mr Bishop you are not medic. Some people, like me, are made ill by CFL AND LED lighting - hence for me and others, CFL and LED do belong in the same category.
Incandescent bulbs produce light similar to daylight - CFL AND LEDs do not.
If you are right Mr Bishop - what is your objection to having bulbs labelled for all toxins and Spectrum on the packaging and actual bulb? and Spectrum? And letting people have free choice to buy whichever bulb they like?
What is your objection to labelling and free choice?
Are you seriously arguing that people made ill by LED and CL lights should be made to use them?
Only a very evil person would force people to use something that made that person ill.
Is this your position?
And, as you are concerned about energy - could you please send me a copy of your electricity bill? number of flights, car jouneys etc,, so that we can make a full assessment of your energy consumed? This is important if you are telling other what to do.
It takes an evil mind to
Are you saying that you know better that the individuals made ill and the doctors who have identified CFL and LED lighting as the cause of the illness?
The marketing of these "long-life low energy bulbs" is a business scam. Furthermore, as Dr. Hanson has pointed out , there are a range of health and danger issues associated with the use and disposal of this lights.
Why should I pay "ONLY" US$15 for a bulb, when only a year ago I could buy a perfectly good and safe incandescent bulb for little more than one dollar fifty from my local store?
And beware of another con perpetrated by those associated with this trade. Companies have been going around Hong Kong speaking to building owner's committees and convincing them to change all their common area lighting with these new energy saving bulbs " free of charge" in return for 50% of the savings made on electricity bills. What the companies fail to mention is that the old incandescent bulbs are replaced with lamps with lower light output (luminance). The companies not only pick up half the savings on electricity savings for using the lower energy bulbs but also cheat and pick up a whole chunk more by the replacements being lower 'powered' and much dimmer. We now have little old ladies in our estate tripping over kerbstones because the path and road lighting is much dimmer than previously. The advocates of these low energy bulbs deserve to be locked up.
On the convention banning 'some' cfls - at the moment, to the consumer and user, all CFLs appear the same - hence accurate labeling for all bulbs is needed - on the packaging - and on the actual bulb - to help with disposal - needed to make people aware - many poorer workers think that because CFL/LEDs are sold as green they contain no toxins - and the are the ones handling used and broken bulbs.
Colour and spectrum are different - I could spray any bulb pink and it would appear pink - but the spectrum from a pink CFL and pink incandescent would be different - it is spectrum that for most people causes problems. brightness/coulour may be another separate factor for some people.
People should be given choice - they know which light they need but may not know about technical details - if CFL AND LEDs suited everyone then everyone would buy them - the fact that some people buy incandescent bulbs suggests they either prefer or need them. These needs are needs - not choices - but a necessity. When it comes to the preference arguments - then why should one person with a lower energy consumption than you (for example) be forced to use CFL lighting when they prefer incandescent lighting and still overall use less energy than you?
my letter of March 17 is clear that the convention wants to ban certain types and not all cfls!
Power stations point - where power stations produce harmful emissions, the emissions need addressing at the power station - not the bulb that does not produce harmful emissions. To introduce toxins into the homes unwise - we need to be told just what they are and the quantity.
Spectrum Alliance - is supported by 20-30 medical doctors - mainly from the London hospitals - and are too busy to write - but these doctors do see patients directly impacted by CFL and LED light - a lot is to do with spectrum - for others it is EMFs - if you are not impacted - you won't understand. However, if not impacted, those needing incandescent light should be given access to them - and all bulbs should be labelled for toxins and all performance aspects.
Ralph Bishop's himself may not be made ill by CFL and LED lighting - I am, as are may others across the UK and Europe - all supported by actual medical evidence - not gossip.
If Mr Bishop wishes to compare total energy consumption or even reference it - he should post his home energy bill on the net so we can compare. Likewise, I would like to know if Mr Bishop drives a car? flys (he describes himself as a regular traveller) - how much pollution does he cause? I bet I consume considerably less energy then him- yet he blabs on about the amount of energy consumption reduced by switching light bulbs - get this clear MR Bishop CFL AND LEDS MAKE ME ILL - you are not a doctor and not a medic - so get your facts right - CFL AND LEDS ARE MEDICALLY LINKED TO ILLNESS - would you force a peanut allergy sufferer to eat peanuts? I hope not - so why repeat propaganda and ignore medical facts?
Lets list on each bulb toxins, spectrum - and let people choose - in the mean time as you are concerned about energy, could you please post you electricity bill and clearly state the miles you have travelled over the last 3 years and by what method? Do you use air conditioning (I don't)? Please state hours used and wattage of the conditioners you use - then we can see how genuine you are about reducing energy.
If CFL and LEDs were so great, no need to ban them
Ralph Bishop is the gossip! There is a great deal of medical evidence that both CFL and LEDs harm people - my letter:
Clear evidence 'green' lighting is harmful
I refer to the letter by Allan Dyer ("'Green' lighting fears just a Luddite attack", March 3) replying to my letter ("'Green' light bulbs really a health hazard", February 22).
Evidence linking compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LED lighting to mental illness, depression, exhaustion, and eyesight problems can be found on the Spectrum Alliance website. This site contains testimonies from patients, optometrists and medical doctors, including a clinical immunologist, who links causes of chronic fatigue syndrome directly to these light bulbs.
Patients across Europe have been unnecessarily prescribed drugs, with bad side effects, for a range of symptoms when in reality all they needed was to avoid CFL and LED lighting. CFLs and LEDs generate light very different from natural light. Incandescent bulbs produce light similar to natural light. It is the light spectrum from CFLs and LEDs that causes illness.
On January 19 the UN signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury. It bans the production, import and export from 2020 of certain types of CFLs because of the serious impact the mercury contained in these bulbs has on humans and the environment.
The article "Green light bulbs poison workers", in The Times, in 2009, gives a detailed account of how CFLs are linked to ill health. The Daily Mail on March 5
@Ralph Bishop : "Hong Kong's Electrical and Mechanical Services Department can and probably should regulate the quality of all fluorescent lamps that can be sold for use in Hong Kong"
But they are not doing this and yet Government and the manufacturers are cajoling us into buying these more expensive bulbs.
And why are these so-called "long life" bulbs marked on the packaging as "lasts up to 5 years" when they seldom do? Even my old incandescent bulbs lasted this long.
As someone who has been active in the European lighting legislation. I can confirm that the legislation has been driven initially by lamp manufacturers. They have been to some extent pushed on to the back foot by campaigning organisations such as Greenpeace who have forced the legislation to be enacted much faster than the lamp manufacturers in Europe have been able to respond to hence almost all CFLi are now manufactured in China.
CFLs are without doubt a bad product. the inclusion of the electronics necessary to make the lamps work increases the environmental impact in respect of hazardous and non recycleable elements excessively, the pressure on price results in lower quality components leading to early failure and poor performance.
There is a significant proportion of the population who do suffer a range of symptoms caused by CFL, LED and high frequency fluorescent lighting. These range from very obvious skin problems, largely caused by UV and near UV blue light, many of such sufferers are unable to go out in daylight, through many migraine sufferers whose attacks are brought on or made worse by such lighting to people who exhibit other debilitating symptoms such as exhaustion, headache , nausea and confusion. This last group are particularly affected and there is little effort to properly research their conditions. At the end of the day most lighting research is conducted and paid for by the lamp industry who do not wish to research negative aspects of products.
Colour is perception of the visible spectrum. The sodium spectrum is dominated by the bright doublet known as the Sodium D- lines at 588.9950 and 589.5924 nanometers, making it yellow coloured light.
nonoise - you really need to delink CFLs from LED lamps.
The technologies are totally different from each other as I have already explained.
At the current pace of change, LED lamps will almost completely replace integrated CFLs within the next few years.
Focus your response on LED lamps only .
According to Philips’ technical literature, their LED lamps have no mercury or lead content,
and do not emit UV light.
Philips’ quarterly financial filings state that LED lighting sales were 373millon Euro for Q4, and now account for 18% of there total lighting group sales.
Do you wish to dispute their published LED lamp statements, alerting everyone
of which ( if any ) toxins in their LED lamps you believe to be a concern,
and of course supporting your statements with credible ( traceable/verifiable )
documents and/or test reports ?



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