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Hong Kong Pollution Link to 7,240 Premature Deaths, Group Says

Roadside pollution in Hong Kong, which benchmarks itself against a 25-year-old air standard, contributed to about 7,240 premature deaths from 2005 to 2011, a public think tank said, citing data from an environmental index.

High nitrogen dioxide levels are linked to the deaths, the Hong Kong-based Civic Exchange said in a statement today, citing data from the Hedley Environmental Index, which uses a peer-reviewed methodology to indicate the public health impact of air pollution.

“Given the high number of avoidable deaths, we are very troubled by the lack of urgency by the administration to tackle air pollution head-on,” said Mike Kilburn, head of environmental strategy for the group.

The Hong Kong government hasn’t updated its air quality objectives since 1987 and its standard of measurements is less strict than the World Health Organization’s. The government yesterday said it will measure pollutants smaller than 2.5 micrometers at all its monitoring stations by March, a week after Beijing pledged to make similar data publicly available.

An estimated 528,388 hospital bed days, and 49.26 million doctor visits “can be attributed to Hong Kong’s persistently poor air quality” during Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s term of office from 2005, the Civic Exchange said.

The Hong Kong government is retrofitting some buses with devices to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, and it’s also working with the government in the nearby Chinese province of Guangdong to reduce ozone concentrations in the region, the city’s environmental protection department said in an e-mailed statement today in response to the report.

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