Hong Kong Air Quality Reaches Worst Levels Yet, Forcing Residents Indoors

Anonymous crowd of people walking on city street
Air pollution in Hong Kong has reached its highest level yet, according to the city’s government. The pollution index at more than half of Hong Kong’s monitoring stations reached a level 10+ — the most serious measurement on the scale.

The 10+ recordings were found in the city’s main business and entertainment districts of Central Hong Kong, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. Other stations recorded either the highest or second-highest levels of pollution severity.

The air pollutants included nitrogen dioxide, which is found in higher concentrations at street level due to the light wind. In general, China’s air pollution problems tend to get worse in the winter.

The main causes of the smog throughout the country’s urban areas are vehicles, ships and power stations. The effects of this poor air quality on China’s population include higher healthcare costs per capita and more days spent inside; residents likely also experience many sleepless nights due to the pollution, which could lead to greater fatigue throughout the day in some of the world’s busiest cities.

Readings of 10+ are accompanied by warnings from the government for the public to stay indoors and reduce their time outside to a minimum, especially in areas with the most vehicle traffic.

The news comes just as new data indicates that the air pollution in China’s capital, Beijing, may be slowly improving. The U.S. State Department found that 21% of Beijing’s days in 2014 met the U.S. standard for healthy air, up from 17% in 2013.

However, the figures still place most days in the unhealthy air category, with the worst air quality occurring in February.

Data from the State Dept. also shows that air quality tends to improve from April to September, when Beijing and the rest of the country have less need for heat sources derived from fossil fuels.

Officials in Hong Kong are trying to tackle the problem of air pollution by introducing low-emission zones to improve air quality. Hong Kong legislators also approved a measure in January 2014 to offer HK $11.4 billion in subsidies to replace old diesel vehicles and add or upgrade catalytic devices in buses and taxis.

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