For two decades, until last year, Tad Stoner and his family called Hong Kong home. With local air quality increasingly interfering with the health of his wife, Iris, and their children, however, they decided to leave the SAR in search of a cleaner environment. Mr Stoner, 54, now works for the newsweekly Cayman Observer and Mrs Stoner for the daily Caymanian Compass in George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands. Here, he tells his story: 'The family decision to leave Hong Kong after 23 years was made during many months of debate and uncertainty, and in the end was reached only painfully, accompanied by much anxiety. 'All those caveats expressed, however, it was clear that the time had arrived when we needed to do something, and for a variety of reasons. While most were personal, a couple of objective factors weighed heavily on our minds, not least among them being the health of my wife, Iris, 47, and my youngest boy, Adam, now eight. 'Iris had for years suffered from asthma, which she contracted in China and battled for almost two decades. We originally arrived in Hong Kong on March 4, 1984, and through the years Iris' Hong Kong doctors, with prolonged effort, had been able to bring the problem under control, but the territory's worsening air pollution was a continual threat. 'Equally, Adam appeared to be similarly afflicted. Several times, we were forced to uncrate our nebuliser, a small machine that pumps airborne medicine through a tube and into a face mask, clearing the passages in the nose and throat. Adam had been forced to use the nebuliser with increasing frequency as Hong Kong's air quality deteriorated, creating fears that ongoing exposure to the pollutants would do long-term damage. 'Both he and his brother, Benjamin, now 13, and their older sister Erin, now 19, attended ESF schools. 'One afternoon, a number of years ago, as Erin and I made our way from Island School to the Outlying Islands Ferry Pier, she was suddenly overcome by the belching buses and roiling poisons spewed by too much traffic in the heart of Central. At the corner of Des Voeux Road and Pedder Street, I could only hold her gently around the waist, offering small comfort, as she vomited into the gutter. 'Peng Chau had been a wonderful place to live, a respite from the ceaseless turmoil of the city. Still it was not sufficient to overcome the health threats created by spending every weekday in the city. This, coupled with the ongoing problems created by my own prolonged period of unemployment, increasingly threatened the viability of Hong Kong for us. 'So on January 2, 2005, the entire Stoner family boarded a New York-bound flight and left the city where my children were born, grew up and went to school, and where my wife and I had made a life for ourselves, and, in fact, grew up a lot too. We left long-time friends, our home and 'our' island, migrating across half the planet to a tiny speck in the Caribbean to start all over again. 'It's been a painful and difficult transition, and we have often wondered about returning to Hong Kong. It is, however, increasingly unlikely, as the medical costs and concerns associated with a broadly degraded environment - both air and water - do not appear to have been seriously addressed by the government or the private sector in any sustained or programmatic fashion. 'In the meantime, both Adam's and Iris' respiratory problems have cleared in the fresh air and constant breezes of the Caribbean. The Cayman Islands have little manufacturing, and the modest number of vehicles is more than compensated for by the island's small size, clear skies, and wide exposure to the vast and unpolluted surrounding seas. 'Were an opportunity to present itself to return to Hong Kong, we would take it very seriously, but the environment - and its health risks to my family - would remain of paramount concern.'