Pollution levels are now 12 to 14 times the amount recommended by the World Health Organization, according to the Clean Air Network, which campaigns to inform the public on Hong Kong’s pollution issues.
Air pollution index levels exceeded a measurement of 400 points at several stations, even though 100 or above is classified as “very high” and comes with the advice that people who are sensitive to pollution should reduce outdoor activities. Anything above 200 is considered “severe,” and can lead to coughing, phlegm and sore throats, the authorities warned. The previous record was 202, set in July 2008.
High air pollution levels are often cited by international companies as a major drawback of doing business in the city, and the extreme levels on Monday, though highly unusual, may hinder the city’s efforts to bolster its image as a desirable place to live.
The current high levels were partly caused by a sandstorm in northern China, which has been moving south, the Hong Kong environment department said. The sandstorm, the nation’s worst in more than a year, has affected 270 million people across 16 provinces and offers a sign of the worsening problem of desertification in the north, according to scientists and meteorologists. On Monday, Beijing was blanketed in a yellow haze of sand and grit.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimates that there are two dozen sandstorms a year, six times the number 50 years ago, according to China Daily, an official English-language newspaper. The sand has mostly blown in from the deserts of the province of Inner Mongolia and the country of Mongolia, on China’s northern border. China has about 1.6 million square kilometers of desert; about 80,000 square kilometers of grasslands became desert in the last few decades, China Daily reported, citing a deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences.
But environmental advocates said roadside pollution was also key to explaining the record levels.
Filed Under: Environment