Air pollution may reach ‘serious’ level of risk in Hong Kong today, warns environmental agency

Air pollution in Hong Kong may reach a “serious” level of risk today, with authorities warning high-risk groups to reduce or avoid physical exertion and outdoor activities.

The Environmental Protection Department said it has recorded higher than normal air pollution levels since last weekend. 

It is expected that the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) at some monitoring stations may reach the “serious” health risk category later today. 

“The air pollution levels are expected to remain higher in the next few days,” the department added.

“Under the influence of a dry continental airstream, the weather in Hong Kong today is fine and very hot, with light to moderate north to northwesterly winds, which is unfavorable for pollutant dispersion and results in rising regional pollution level,” the department said. 

“The intense sunshine enhances photochemical smog activity leading to rapid formation of ozone and fine particulates in the Pearl River Delta region. The high ozone level also promotes the formation of nitrogen dioxide.”

As of 3pm, the AQHI at general stations is 8 to 10 (very high), while that for the roadside stations is 8 to 9 (very high).

According to the Hong Kong Observatory, the weather will remain very hot with light winds over the coast of Guangdong in the next few days. 

The department expects that the regional pollution level affecting Hong Kong will remain higher than normal until the advent of stronger winds.

The warning comes a day after the observatory reported the highest temperature in September on record.

With a health risk category in the “very high” or “serious” levels, authorities advised children, the elderly and people with existing heart or respiratory illnesses to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities to a minimum or avoid such activities. 

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The general public is advised to reduce, or reduce to a minimum, outdoor physical exertion, and to reduce time staying outdoors, especially in areas with heavy traffic. 

As the health effects of air pollutants may vary for individuals, people who are in doubt or experience discomfort should seek advice from healthcare professionals, authorities added. 

The public may visit the Centre for Health Protection’s website for more information on the health effects of air pollution and relevant health advice.

The Education Bureau urges all schools to visit its website for appropriate measures to safeguard students’ health and take note of changes in the index.

Authorities added that when the AQHI is at the “very high” level, employers of outdoor workers performing heavy manual work are advised to assess the risk of outdoor work and take appropriate preventive measures to protect the health of their employees, such as reducing outdoor physical exertion and the time of their stay outdoors, especially in areas with heavy traffic. 

At the “serious” level, employers of all outdoor workers are advised to assess the risk of outdoor work and take appropriate preventive measures to protect the health of their employees.

Members of the public can check the current AQHI readings at the Environmental Protection Department’s website or by calling the hotline at 2827 8541.