Air pollution caused more than 3,000 premature deaths and monetary loss of HK$39 billion last year to Hong Kong, according to a study by University of Hong Kong researchers.
Researchers from the school of public health developed an index in 2008 to provide real-time estimates for premature deaths, doctor visits, and days spent in hospital with illnesses associated with air pollution.
In their latest study, presented to the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel last Friday, they estimated that 3,069 people died prematurely last year due to air pollution and 151,300 were hospitalised for pollution-related illnesses.
The medical bills and the value of loss of productivity as a result was HK$39.4 billion, according to their estimates.
Professor Anthony Hedley, who developed the index and headed the study, told the panel that air pollution was the biggest threat to Hong Kong’s sustainable health and called for more attention to the problem.
“Probably, 100 per cent of the population is exposed, at unacceptable levels, to this environmental hazard,” he said.
Hedley said one latest trend was that marine emissions, from ships in inshore waters, had become a major cause of illness and deaths linked to air pollution.
His study also suggested that while everyone was exposed to pollution, the study found lower income groups in the city suffered from a higher death rate than other sectors.
It found that an increase of 10 microgram in pollutants could pose a greater risk to people who are unemployed, have lower education attainment and lower incomes than more affluent people.
Hedley compiled his index by analysing readings from the Environmental Protection Department’s Air Pollution Index (API).
He said the risk categories in the government indices bore no relationship to the bad health outcomes and he aimed to provide a more accessible picture of the related health risks.
To check the The Hedley Environmental Index, visit: http://hedleyindex.sph.hku.hk/home.php