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Environment

Air pollution in Hong Kong posing serious health risk to residents as toxic cloud hangs over city

  • Air quality worst in New Territories as Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tung Chung record highest levels of pollution
  • Other areas also left under toxic cloud as light winds fail to move pollutants
PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2018, 6:52pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2018, 10:48am

A toxic cloud hung over Hong Kong on Monday, posing a serious health risk to residents in three towns in the New Territories

Heavy pollution drove down air quality across the city and, as of 6pm, the Environmental Protection Department’s Air Quality Health Index for Tuen Mun, Yeun Long and Tung Chung was 10+ – the highest level – which falls in the serious health risk category.

The AQHIs, which alert the public to the short-term health risk of air pollution, are reported on a scale of 1 to 10, and 10+, and are grouped into five health risk categories: low, moderate, high, very high and serious.

At 4pm, the hourly concentration of ozone in Tuen Mun went up to 264.4 micrograms per cubic metre, while for nitrogen dioxide it was 96.8mcg.

The PM10 concentration – specks of tiny respirable particulates that can get deep into the lungs – was 121.3mcg, and for PM2.5 it measured 67.1mcg.

The air quality was also poor on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon, with the monitoring stations for the Central/Western and Eastern districts, and Sham Shui Po, all recording an index of 7, which falls in the high health risk category.

A statement released by the department noted the city was being affected by an air mass with higher background pollutants, especially in ozone, PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations.

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“In addition, the light wind hinders effective dispersion of air pollutants,” the statement read.

“The sunshine enhances photochemical smog activity and the formation of ozone and fine particulates, resulting in high pollution in the Pearl River Delta region.”

The statement also said the high level of ozone had promoted the formation of nitrogen dioxide, particularly in parts of the urban areas and at the roadside.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, winds will strengthen from the east with one or two rain patches over the region in the middle and latter parts of this week.

It is expected that pollution levels will remain higher than normal until the wind strengthens over the region.

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With a health risk category in the very high range or above, children, the elderly and people with existing heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities to a minimum, or avoid such activities entirely.

The general public are advised to reduce, or reduce to a minimum, outdoor physical exertion, and to reduce time staying outdoors, especially in areas with heavy traffic.

As health effects of air pollutants may vary for individuals, those who are in doubt, or experience discomfort should seek advice from health care professionals.