Hong Kong Warns Against Outdoor Activity as Pollution Rises

Hong Kong said it will probably experience elevated levels of air pollution “for a while” as light winds fail to disperse pollutants, prompting the government to warn residents to reduce outdoor activity.

The Air Quality Health Index should be in the “moderate” to “very high” range in the afternoon, rising from “low to high” in the morning, according to forecasts by the city’s Environmental Protection Department.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has made cleaning up the city’s skies a priority with air quality in Hong Kong worsening since 2007. Outdoor pollution can cause lung cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization agency, said in October, ranking it as a carcinogen for the first time.

The index was 8 on a scale of 1 to 10+ at the roadside monitors in Central and Mong Kok, and 10 in Causeway Bay at 6 p.m. yesterday. A reading of 8 or above triggers a government advice for people with heart or respiratory illnesses to reduce time spent outdoors, especially in areas with heavy traffic. Readings at Causeway Bay, a popular shopping area, and the Central Business district, are at 5 as of 9 a.m. local time.

“The elevated health risk recorded at the stations is due to high levels of suspended particulates and nitrogen dioxide,” the department said late yesterday in an e-mailed response to questions. “The relatively light wind in urban areas hinders effective dispersion of air pollutants particularly at the street level.”

A cold front is crossing the coast of Guangdong, bringing cooler weather to the region, the department said, citing the city’s observatory. Another intense winter monsoon will affect southern China next week, it said.

The city gets more pollution from China’s Guangdong province during the winter months because of wind direction. The other major cause of pollutants in Hong Kong comes from local vehicle emissions.

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