Pollution, pollution go away.

I have a little debate with myself (and others) almost every day these days… could this really be pollution?? Or is it just fog? This was the view from our deck yesterday.The next photo was taken this past summer when the wind carries the pollution from Shenhzen away from our fair city. (And, no, I didn’t fiddle around with any of my camera’s contrast settings.)

In the last month or so, when I have taken my regular running loop around the Peak.. I’ve gotten little pains in my chest when I was pushing it. I would like to think it’s in my head… but I don’t see how my times have gotten worse even as I’ve more or less maintained my same workout routine.

I recently had lunch with an HK expat mother of two and she told me that since she moved here nine months ago not a day has gone by that at least one of her children didn’t have a chest cold… when she took them to the Dr…. he had one word for her: pollution. He suggested keeping them inside at home–and away from both the pollution outside at the park. Kinda sad right?

As it turns out, 2010 was the worst year on record for Hong Kong pollution. Some other depressing facts:

  • Roadside smog reached “very high” or “severe” levels on the city’s air pollution index, triggering government health warnings, at least 12.6 percent of the time at monitoring stations this year.
  • Business leaders including the General Chamber of Commerce have said pollution is harming the city’s ability to recruit top executives to Hong Kong. About 25 percent of respondents to a survey published earlier this month said smog has led them to consider leaving the city because of concerns over their health.
  • The pollution index topped 100 at all three of the city’s roadside monitoring stations today, as it has every day since Dec. 20. “Very high” or “severe” levels of roadside pollution were recorded 1.86 percent of the time in 2000, the first full-year of publicly available data, according to calculations made by Bloomberg.
  • Truck drivers buying cheaper and dirtier diesel fuel in mainland China and emissions from ships’ engines in the harbor contribute to the smog, according to Michael DeGolyer, an academic at Hong Kong Baptist University who studies the issue.
  • People in the city are the unhappiest in the world with their air quality, with 70 percent of those polled expressing discontent about the levels of smog, according to a Gallup survey of adults in 153 countries released in April. The next most disgruntled country was Chad.
  • About 774 people died prematurely in Hong Kong due to illnesses related to air pollution so far this year.

And what’s depressing for all you back in America is that until China decides to follow our example, it doesn’t really seem to matter how many local, green products you buy when they are polluting by the boatload! That being said, although few people recycle here (you have to carry your trash to pick-up points) I am starting to see more and more green signs… since Hong Kong is a test case for China at large, once Hong Kong has fully adapted green policies it’s likely that the rest of China will follow suit.

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3 responses to “Pollution, pollution go away.

  1. This is so sad, but a world-wide problem, I guess. I suppose wearing a mask is not a fun way to take a run, either. Here’s hoping the Chinese will decide to go green! As usual, I enjoyed my stop here.

  2. Oh my gosh, that is horrible . . . over 700 premature deaths in 2 weeks . .. unbelievable.

  3. First and foremost, loving your blog! I’m headed to Hong Kong for a mini-vacation and have enjoyed reading you words on it. As an expat living in Seoul, South Korea, I can relate to the pollution problems. Despite maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s an uphill battle to remain healthy here with the high pollution levels and dust storms from China. Are face masks as popular an accessory in HK as they are here?

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