Hong Kong pollution killing thousands, costing billions

Poor air quality in Hong Kong and neighbouring districts in southern China is linked to the deaths of around 10,000 people a year and has an economic impact running well into the billions of yuan.

These are the findings of a report from HK think tank Civic Exchange.

The report looks at how airborne pollution impacts on public health – and the public purse – by lost productivity, sickness, pressure on hospital beds and premature deaths.

“Air pollution has created a new disease burden on our health and health care system,” says the report.

“Evaluating the air quality in Southern China and its impact on health and health care costs is seen as an essential step in assessing the effectiveness of air pollution control policies in the region.”

The report looks at levels of particulates, NOx and sulphur dioxide and suggests that, combined, the pollutants are responsible for 9,519 deaths and over 400,000 hospital bed days per year.

As well as the impact on individual’s health, the pollution is losing the region approximately 6.7bn yuan (about £500m) per year.

The poor air quality is linked to Honk Kong’s reliance of dirty coal-fired power stations and the mushrooming of factories along the Pearl River Delta in mainland China.

“The emergence of China as the world’s factory for almost all popular consumer goods and domestic and commercial equipment has been fuelled by very high consumption of fossil fuels which give rise to complex pollutant mixtures which cause acute and long term injury to health,” says the report.

“Although the consumption of energy in relation to GDP has fallen, and particularly the consumption of coal which has been a principal source of particulates and SO2 during the past 25 years, oil consumption has increased and China is still regarded as an inefficient energy intensive economy.”

Pollution in the region has also been blamed for a brain-drain effect, with international business leaders leaving the city for cleaner climates.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie