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Hong Kong’s Central Pollution ‘Very High’ for 6th Day

Air pollution in Hong Kong’s main business district remained “very high” for the sixth straight day as a tropical storm slowed the dispersion of motor-vehicle emissions in the city.

The Air Pollution Index reading in Central was 141 after reaching 161 yesterday, the highest since March 23. The Causeway Bay area recorded a reading of 131, while levels in Kowloon’s Mong Kok district reached 107 as of 9 a.m. today, the Environmental Protection Department said on its website.

Levels higher than 100 trigger a government warning that people with heart or respiratory illnesses should avoid prolonged stays in heavy traffic areas, according to the website. The “enhanced” photochemical smog and ozone formation is caused by pollutants from vehicles trapped by the effects of tropical storm Lionrock approaching the coast of China’s southern Fujian province, Yaufai Chau, an environmental department spokesman, said in an e-mail.

“The high everyday emissions from cars is the root cause of air pollution in Hong Kong and the government should address that,” Christine Loh, chief executive officer at the independent advocacy group Civic Exchange, said in a phone interview yesterday. “Every time a thunder storm comes, the problem is exacerbated.”

The API reading in Central hit a maximum reading of 500 on March 22, when the government cited a sandstorm that swept across northern China as the main reason of air pollution.

Hong Kong’s air pollution was the worst on record during the six months ended March. In response to a public outcry, the government introduced a bill proposing a ban on idling engines. Singapore beat the city for the best quality of life in Asia as Hong Kong struggles with air pollution, according to a survey by Mercer Consulting in May.

“A ban on idling engines is just one of the measures we need,” Loh said. “What’s more important is to introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles in Hong Kong so that emissions can be reduced over the long term.”

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