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Particulate mass and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons exposure from secondhand smoke in the back seat of a vehicle

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Ineffective action puts people at risk

SCMP Letters 12 July 2012

Allan Dyer (“Punish this aggressive minority”, July 2) provides a concise summary of the woeful gaps in enforcing the protection of both the public and occupational health against passive smoking.

It beggars belief that after more than two decades of providing objective scientific evidence on the serious detriment to health – both that of smokers and non-smokers – from second-hand smoke, we still have business venues able to defy the law and so far little prospect of effective action and compliance.

The combined effects of weak or delayed government action, intense and effective tobacco industry lobbying, opposition from tobacco-friendly legislators, and ambiguous law drafting has ensured that the health of thousands of hospitality workers has been seriously harmed.

In addition to the unresolved problem of lethal outdoor pollution, the new chief executive and director of health must give Hong Kong’s indoor air quality the highest possible priority.

Anthony Hedley, honorary professor, school of public health, University of Hong Kong

Particulate matter from tobacco versus diesel car exhaust: an educational perspective — Invernizzi et al. 13 (3): 219 — Tobacco Control
Tob Control2004;13:219-221 doi:10.1136/tc.2003.005975

Particulate matter from tobacco versus diesel car exhaust: an educational

G Invernizzi1,
A Ruprecht1,
R Mazza1,
E Rossetti1,
A Sasco2,
S Nardini3,
R Boffi1

+ Author Affiliations

1 Tobacco Control Unit, National Cancer Institute SIMG-Italian Academy of
GPs, Milan, Italy
2 IARC, Lyon, France
3 Pulmonary & TB Unit, General Hospital, Vittorio Veneto, Italy
Correspondence to:? G Invernizzi? National Cancer Institute, Tobacco Control
Unit, 17 via Della Michela, Prata Camportaccio, 23020, Italy;
Received 5 September 2003
Accepted 23 January 2004

Background: Air pollution is a common alibi used by adolescents taking up
smoking and by smokers uncertain about quitting. However, environmental
tobacco smoke (ETS) causes fine particulate matter (PM) indoor pollution
exceeding outdoor limits, while new engines and fuels have reduced
particulate emissions by cars. Data comparing PM emission from ETS and a
recently released diesel car are presented.

Methods: A 60 m3 garage was chosen to assess PM emission from three
smouldering cigarettes (lit sequentially for 30 minutes) and from a TDCi
2000cc, idling for 30 minutes.

Results: Particulate was measured with a portable analyser with readings
every two minutes. Background PM10, PM2.5, and PM1 levels (mean (SD)) were 15
(1), 13 (0.7), and 7 (0.6) ?g/m3 in the car experiment and 36 (2), 28 (1),
and 14 (0.8) ?g/m3 in the ETS experiment, respectively. Mean (SD) PM recorded
in the first hour after starting the engine were 44 (9), 31 (5), and 13 (1)
?g/m3, while mean PM in the first hour after lighting cigarettes were 343
(192), 319 (178), and 168 (92) ?g/m3 for PM10, PM2.5, and PM1, respectively
(p < 0.001, background corrected).

Conclusions: ETS is a major source of PM pollution, contributing to indoor PM
concentrations up to 10-fold those emitted from an idling ecodiesel engine.
Besides its educational usefulness, this knowledge should also be considered
from an ecological perspective.

Australian Ethical: we don’t invest in guns, tobacco or pollution

Sydney Communications agency I.D.E.A.S is behind a campaign for Australian Ethical Investment that introduces the new slogan ‘Positive wealth creation’.

The campaign – titled ‘wake up’ – is based on the insight that many people do not know what their superannuation is invested in.

Australian Ethical: we dont invest in guns, tobacco or pollution    Wake up Cigarettes Still

Max Landrak, creative director at IDEAS, said: ”Ethical investing can be a difficult concept to get across. We found that it’s a lot easier to explain to people what Australian Ethical don’t invest in.”

Australian Ethical: we dont invest in guns, tobacco or pollution    Wake Up Guns Still

The campaign will run in print and online.

Australian Ethical: we dont invest in guns, tobacco or pollution    Wake Up Pollution Still

Paul Smith, GM of strategy and communication at Australian Ethical said: “Australian Ethical has a very clear position in the superannuation and investment space and we wanted a creative campaign that communicated this to new and existing customers alike”.


  • ·        Campaign: ‘Wake Up’
  • ·        Executions: ‘Cigarettes’, ‘Guns’, Pollution’
  • ·        Client: Australian Ethical
  • ·        Client contacts: Paul Smith, General Manager, Strategy & Communication, Stephen Hyam, Marketing Manager
  • ·        Agency: I.D.E.A.S.
  • ·        Flash: Jimmy Pownall
  • ·        Creative director: Max Landrak

Fine particle air pollution and secondhand smoke exposures and risks inside 66 US casinos.


Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


Smoking bans often exempt casinos, exposing occupants to fine particles (PM(2.5)) from secondhand smoke. We quantified the relative contributions to PM(2.5) from both secondhand smoke and infiltrating outdoor sources in US casinos. We measured real-time PM(2.5), particulate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PPAH), and carbon dioxide (CO(2)) (as an index of ventilation rate) inside and outside 8 casinos in Reno, Nevada. We combined these data with data from previous studies, yielding a total of 66 US casinos with smoking in California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, developing PM(2.5) frequency distributions, with 3 nonsmoking casinos for comparison. Geometric means for PM(2.5) were 53.8 μg/m(3) (range 18.5-205 μg/m(3)) inside smoking casinos, 4.3 μg/m(3) (range 0.26-29.7 μg/m(3)) outside those casinos, and 3.1 μg/m(3) (range 0.6-9 μg/m(3)) inside 3 nonsmoking casinos. In a subset of 21 Reno and Las Vegas smoking casinos, PM(2.5) in gaming areas averaged 45.2 μg/m(3) (95% CI, 37.7-52.7 μg/m(3)); adjacent nonsmoking casino restaurants averaged 27.2 μg/m(3) (95% CI, 17.5-36.9 μg/m(3)), while PM(2.5) outside the casinos averaged 3.9 μg/m(3) (95% CI, 2.5-5.3 μg/m(3)). For a subset of 10 Nevada and Pennsylvania smoking casinos, incremental (indoor-outdoor) PM(2.5) was correlated with incremental PPAH (R(2)=0.79), with ventilation rate-adjusted smoker density (R(2)=0.73), and with smoker density (R(2)=0.60), but not with ventilation rates (R(2)=0.15). PPAH levels in 8 smoking casinos in 3 states averaged 4 times outdoors. The nonsmoking casinos’ PM(2.5) (n=3) did not differ from outdoor levels, nor did their PPAH (n=2). Incremental PM(2.5) from secondhand smoke in approximately half the smoking casinos exceeded a level known to produce cardiovascular morbidity in nonsmokers after less than 2h of exposure, posing acute health risks to patrons and workers. Casino ventilation and air cleaning practices failed to control secondhand smoke PM(2.5). Drifting PM(2.5) from secondhand smoke contaminated unseparated nonsmoking areas. Smoke-free casinos reduced PM(2.5) to the same low levels found outdoors.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Secondhand smoke exposure (PM2.5) in outdoor dining areas and its correlates.


Cancer Council Victoria, Carlton, Australia.



This study assessed the magnitude of secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure when people smoke in outdoor dining areas and explored conditions influencing exposure levels.


Data were gathered from 69 outdoor dining areas in Melbourne, Australia, during April/May 2007. Sitting at tables within 1 metre of an active smoker, the authors measured the concentration of particulate pollution (PM(2.5)) using TSI SidePak Personal Aerosol Monitors. PM(2.5) data were recorded by the monitor at 30-second intervals, and data were collected over an average of 25.8 minutes per venue. Information was collected about the presence of overhead coverings and the number of patrons and lit cigarettes.


The average background level of PM(2.5) was 8.4 microg/m(3) (geometric mean (GM)=6.1 microg/m(3)), increasing to an average of 17.6 microg/m(3) (GM=12.7 microg/m(3)) over the observational period and 27.3 microg/m(3) (GM=17.6 microg/m(3)) during the time that cigarettes were actively smoked near the monitor. There was substantial variation in exposure levels, with a maximum peak concentration of 483.9 microg/m(3) when there were lit cigarettes close to the monitor. Average exposure levels increased by around 30% for every additional active smoker within 1 metre of the monitor. Being situated under an overhead cover increased average exposure by around 50%.


When individuals sit in outdoor dining venues where smokers are present it is possible that they will be exposed to substantial SHS levels. Significant increases in exposure were observed when monitors were located under overhead covers, and as the number of nearby smokers increased. The role of outdoor smoking restrictions in minimising exposure to SHS must be considered.



[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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Health Promot J Austr. 2010 Aug;21(2):99-105.

Second hand smoke in alfresco areas.

Stafford JDaube MFranklin P.


WA Tobacco Document Searching Program, Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia.



There are moves to ban smoking in outdoor areas of pubs, restaurants and cafes. Some argue that this is unnecessary as exposure to second hand smoke (SHS) is minimal. The aim of this study was to determine potential exposure of patrons to SHS in outdoor areas of eating and drinking venues.


Concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) were measured in the alfresco areas of 28 cafes and pubs. Data were collected on the number of smokers present during sampling and factors that could influence PM2.5 concentrations. PM2.5concentrations for periods with and without smokers were compared using paired and independent sample tests.


PM2.5 concentrations were significantly increased when there was at least one smoker compared to periods with no smoking (14.25microg/m3 and 3.98 g/m3, respectively). There was evidence of a dose response increase with mean concentrations for none, one and two or more smokers of 3.98, 10.59and 17.00microg/m3, respectively. The differences remained significant after controlling for other factors. When two or more people were smoking, average PM2.5reached levels the US Environmental Protection Agency warns may put particularly sensitive people at risk of respiratory symptoms.


Smoking increases PM2.5concentrations in outdoor areas to levels that are potentially hazardous to health.



[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Economics Studies


An excerpt from a currently unpublished study conducted by the San Francisco Department of the Environment

More than 360 billion cigarettes were consumed in the U.S. in 2007. Cigarette consumption results in the littering of cigarette butts and other tobacco-related packaging. Tobacco product litter, particularly cigarette butts, has been shown to be toxic, slow to decompose, costly to manage, and growing in volume—a trend that appears to be exacerbated by the increased prevalence of indoor smoking bans. Growing concern over cigarette butt litter has prompted states and municipalities to undertake a variety of policy initiatives. In this report we estimate the costs of tobacco product litter (“TPL”) to the City of San Francisco. We focus mainly on direct costs, but the indirect costs associated with environmental impact and tourism—while not the basis for the fee discussed herein–are also discussed. The overall objective is to calculate a cost-per-pack (of cigarettes) that offsets the costs of TPL incurred by the City. TPL is estimated to cost the City $7,487,916 after applying data from the City’s 2009 Streets Litter Audit. Based on a per annum pack consumption of 30.6 million, the City would need to charge a “maximum permissible fee” of $0.22 per pack to recover the costs of TPL.

Toxicity studies

SDSU public health researcher and CBAG Member Richard Gersberg evaluated the effects left-over cigarette butts have on marine life and found that the chemicals from just one filtered cigarette butt had the ability to kill half the fish living in a 1-liter container of water.  Cigarette filters are made of cellulose-acetate, which is not biodegradable.

Standardized test fish (top smelt in salt water, flat-head minnows in fresh water) were used in this study, performed according to standards recommended by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and was approved by the SDSU Institutional Review Board.

Gersberg’s study used three types of cigarette butts: smoked filtered cigarettes without tobacco; smoked filtered cigarettes with tobacco and clean un-smoked filtered cigarettes. In all cases, about half of the fish were killed with a very low concentration of cigarette butts.  The most important finding in this research is that it seems to be the filter, or rather whats in the left-over filter that is most dangerous to our water,Gersberg said.  The results of this study are now being prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

In response to these findings, CBAG held a press conference on May 1, 2009, in the Aztec Center to recommend that cigarette butts be considered and regulated as toxic wastes.

Each year, billions of cigarette butts end up on our beaches, and in our oceans, lakes and rivers,said Tom Novotny, chair of CBAG and professor of public health at SDSU. Based on this new research, we believe that cigarettes should be considered toxic waste and new requirements need to be established for how they are disposed.

Six-year review of cigarette ingestion in children–gastric lavage versus medical observation

Kubo K, Chishiro T.


“During 2006, the Japan Poison Information Center received 2583 inquiries about ingestion of cigarette, which is the most frequent household products ingested by children in Japan. During 2001-2006, two hundred and seventy-six children under seven years of age ingesting cigarettes and its related substances presented to the emergency department in Japan Red Cross Hospital Wakayama Center. The peak age was one year and younger, so-called “ingestion age”. Patients were frequently detected chewing cigarettes and the situation of cases varied individually. It was impossible to estimate the amount of ingested cigarette based on the medical interview. Eighty-three percent of the patients were asymptomatic. Treatment strategy has been changed into a noninvasive one. Gastric lavage has not been performed by emergency physicians since 2001, and by pediatricians since 2006. After the medical observation for two hours following ingestion, all the children except one (who was hospitalized because of his family’s request) were discharged from the emergency department. Independent of doing gastric lavage, all the 276 children had good prognosis. We concluded that ingestion of cigarette in children is generally benign. No gastric lavage, but medical observation for two hours following ingestion in emergency department is our recommendation of management.”

The dangers of nicotine ingestion in dogs

Nicole C. Hackendahl, DVM, and Colin W. Sereda, DVM

A toxicology brief from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on a dog that ingested cigarette butts:

Tobacco Documents Research

Dr. Libby Smith, historian with the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Vivian Wang (Research Assistant), and Kristin Lum (MS1), have been looking into the previously secret tobacco industry documents housed at the UCSF Library to find out what has been done by the industry regarding cigarette butt litter.  Vivian and Kristin have found that the industry has tried unsuccessfully for years to develop marketable biodegradable filters (for example, made from food starch); these efforts have essentially been abandoned by the industry.

Dr. Smith has found that the industry has sought to understand why smokers discard their butts so carelessly.  She suggests that such research has revealed significant levels of discomfort about smoking addiction among smokers such that they seek to rid themselves of the evidence of their addiction (the butt) as soon as possible.  The industry also appears to understand the potential public relations problems it has with environmental concerns regarding cigarette butt waste.  For example, Phillip Morris became one of the major supporters of the “Keep America Beautiful Campaign” (a non-profit organization [KAB]), which encourages individual responsibility for proper butt disposal and other wastes.

However, some analysts point out that Philip Morris’ interest lies primarily in shifting the responsibility for butt waste to the consumer; KAB’s efforts focus on public education and increasing availability of butt receptacles, including hand held (cigarette brand-logo labeled) ashtrays.

In 2007, KAB did receive a $3 million grant from Philip Morris USA for its butt litter campaigns, but this type of largesse serves mainly to enhance Philip Morris’ corporate social image. There is no evidence to show the positive effects of their campaigns.  Those hand held ashtrays end up being dumped somewhere.

Policy Research

CBAG members Tom Novotny, Kristin Lum, Vivian Wang, Libby Smith, and Richard Barnes have just published a paper in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health entitled Filtered Cigarettes and the Case for an Environmental Policy on Cigarette Waste.  This peer-reviewed article lays out the policy options available to law-makers, advocates, and the general republic to reduce the impact of cigarette butts as toxic hazardous waste.  Additional research is called for in this article, including:

  • The health consequences of banning the sale of filtered cigarettes
  • The behavioral outcomes of banning the sale of filtered cigarettes
  • The efficacy of outdoor smoking bans in reducing cigarette butt waste
  • The economic costs of butt waste cleanup for cities, counties, and states
  • Knowledge, attitudes, and practices of smokers regarding cigarette butt waste disposal
  • The environmental impact of butt waste on marine life, other animals, and humans

Smoke-free Interventions and Research

A number of beaches have gone smoke free.  Click here for a current listing by the American Non-Smokers Rights Foundation.

Analysis of Metals Leached from Smoked Cigarette Litter

Moerman, J. W. & Potts, G. E.

Littered cigarette butts are potential point sources for environmental contamination. In areas with substantial amounts of cigarette litter, serious environmental hazards may exist as captured components are leached from the filters and smoked tobacco. Although the compounds in cigarettes and mainstream smoke have been extensively researched, few studies have attempted to identify and quantify the components leached from cigarette butts or assess the leaching behavior of these components.

The aim of this study is three-fold: 1) to determine the concentration of Al, Ba, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sr, Ti, and Zn leached from cigarette butts in aqueous solution; 2) to assess the relationship between pH of the leaching solution and metal concentration leached; and 3) to assess the relationship between soaking time and metal concentration leached. Smoked cigarette material was added to aqueous solutions of pH 4.0, 5.0, and 6.0 ± 0.1. This procedure was also repeated using unsmoked cigarettes to establish background concentrations. The leachates were analyzed via inductively-coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) 1 day, 7 days, and 34 days after sample addition.

All metals were detected in the leachates derived from smoked material 1 day after sample addition, with the exception of Cd.  The metals were released at varying rates. The concentration of some metals leached increased over the study period, establishing that cigarette litter is a point source for metal contamination for at least a month and possibly longer.  The concentration of other metals remained constant after one day of soaking, possibly indicating a rapid release of those species from the litter. No clear relationship between pH and metal concentration leached emerged from this study, suggesting that differences in pH within the range typical of precipitation have no appreciable impact on metal concentration leached from cigarette material.

Environmental protection ministry admits air pollution is worsening

Last updated: July 27, 2010

Source: Agence France-Presse in Beijing

Air pollution on the mainland increased this year for the first time since 2005, the environmental protection ministry has said, due to sandstorms, a rise in construction and industrial projects, and more cars.

The ministry found that the number of ‘good air quality days’ in 113 major cities across the nation had dropped 0.3 percentage points in the first six months of the year compared with the same time last year.

These cities had not recorded a fall in the number of good air quality days since 2005, Tao Detian, a spokesman for the ministry, said in a statement posted on its website on Monday.

The level of ‘inhalable particles’, a major air pollution index, was also up during that time in those cities for the first time since 2005, Tao said, blaming the deterioration in air quality on severe spring sandstorms.

“More construction and industrial projects started this year due to economic recovery and the rapid increase in automobiles should also be blamed,” Chai Fahe, vice head of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, told the China Daily newspaper.

The ministry also found that more than a quarter of the surface water in the mainland was contaminated, and fit only for industrial or agricultural use.

Acid rain was also a problem in the first half of the year – out of 443 cities the ministry monitored, 189 suffered from the harmful precipitation.

And in eight cities, including a district of Shanghai, the rain that fell for the first six months was constantly acid, the statement said.

Tao said that despite some improvements, China still faced a “grim” situation in fighting pollution.

The mainland has some of the world’s worst water and air pollution after rapid industrialisation over the last 30 years triggered widespread environmental damage.

A report published in March by the London-based medical journal The Lancet said air pollution in China was widely to blame for 1.3 million premature deaths a year from respiratory disease.

Damaging indecision: Public health expert Anthony Hedley has relocated to cleaner air. Yet that’s not an option for most Hongkongers, he writes, and the government is failing in its duty to protect them from pollution

luggageLast updated: May 3, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

I arrived in Hong Kong to begin working in community medicine and public health on July 11, 1988, at 2.30pm. Like one of my 19th-century predecessors from Aberdeen University medical school, Sir James Cantlie, I was captivated by the beauty of the seascapes and landscapes of the Hong Kong archipelago.

My camera and tripod were a permanent fixture on the balcony looking over the western harbour towards Lamma, Cheung Chau and Lantau. Although several districts of Hong Kong had significant pollution problems, I recall the biting clarity of the views on many days. Since then, average daily visibility has progressively declined to only 12 kilometres, landscapes are filtered through a grey blanket and the tripod has been packed away. Each kilometre decline in visibility is a signal of our state of health, and is causally related to daily illness episodes and deaths.

In 1988, my involvement in environmental health was initiated by Lee Wing-tat, then chairman of Kwai Tsing District Council.

His members were deeply concerned about the effects of high sulphur dioxide levels on children, and asked if we could provide support for pollution abatement on health grounds.

We demonstrated that children in Southern district enjoyed better respiratory health and less need for health care than those in Kwai Tsing. On July 1, 1990, a new ordinance modestly restricted fuel sulphur content. There was an immediate, large-scale beneficial impact on air quality, child health improved and differences between districts declined. But much remained to be done and our efforts since have simply not matched the size of the problem.

Hong Kong’s prosperity (SEHK: 0803, announcements, news) has long provided a protective envelope for population health. This is now being seriously eroded by the intense pollution exposures, which damage lungs and blood vessels, and potentially harm everyone. It is ironic that, in a region where two decades ago the government took a decisive step to reduce urban pollution, we are now unable to make essential decisions to protect child health. Hong Kong’s air pollution is fostering an epidemic of health problems that will extend through the rest of this century.

Because of its vast resources, Hong Kong has the best opportunity in Asia to protect younger generations against the inevitable health hazards, predominantly environmental and lifestyle in origin, of the emergent megalopolis of southern China. This will need a decisively new approach to public health protection. Resources to combat infectious disease have been provided, but those needed for other environmental health priorities in Asia’s “world city” are sadly lacking.

The world’s league tables for prosperity are scaled according to trade figures and gross domestic product per capita. I used to teach that these were the principal determinants of health and life expectancy, but today in Hong Kong that is a recipe for complacency.

Arrogance and hubris stemming from our economic success could lead to the neglect of essential public health measures. We are failing to ensure, in our high-performing economy, that inequalities in health are matched by avoidance of inequity in health protection. While a proper sense of duty to provide care should drive health protection legislation, it is now clear that vested interests and government inaction are a direct threat to the health of those most vulnerable. Hong Kong needs a new model for public health advocacy, risk communication and mandatory protection measures to address the explosive changes in urban living.

Rigorous science is vitally important to support the evidence base, but public health is not anyone’s exclusive intellectual property. It must become a truly multi-sectoral effort both within and outside of government. I have learned that broadly based community action is critically important to fill the gaps in health protection created by bureaucratic inertia and obstruction in the Legislative Council. We had skilled champions in Legco to steer tobacco control through the 1997 bills committee; we now need champions to embrace even wider concerns for environmental health. The forum on air quality created by the coalition between universities and NGOs, led by Civic Exchange, is a promising starting point for a stronger, community-based movement for environmental protection. It may even give the government the confidence it lacks to take radical action to protect our health.

Stories about so many important health threats have very short half-lives in the media. Tobacco and air pollution have been unusually robust in that respect, but the resolution of our air pollution problems will take decades unless there is a radical change of policy. The flag-bearers for future evidence-based environmental protection must obviously come from today’s school population. We must focus on developing sustainability in both environmental science and advocacy; it cannot depend on the few.

I have enjoyed and benefited from the opportunities to contribute to health care in Hong Kong. It made an enormous difference to my professional and personal quality of life, and I never wanted to be anywhere else. However, unexpected medical problems and advancing years have made me more vulnerable to the biological stress of poor air quality.

I have received frequent calls to my office over many years seeking advice, from both locals and expatriates on four continents about pollution effects on family health. Many choose not to come or stay; others discount the hazard and come. They all have a choice, in contrast to the majority who depend on government to provide environmental security. They are paying dearly to breathe dirty air, but successive environment ministers say they must pay even more for clean air.

I am fortunate to be able to relocate to cleaner air, but our real concern should be to put in place measures ensuring that every child in Hong Kong is guaranteed their right to clean food, clean water and clean air, now and in the future.

Anthony Hedley is honorary professor at the School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong, and is now breathing the pristine air of the Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea

Pollution still deterring expats from making the move to HK

1203b_hong_kong_narrowweb__300x4060Last updated: March 25, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Air pollution continues to choke Hong Kong’s appeal among expatriates as a place to live and work in, although improvements in transport and communications helped the city climb the global rankings to number 8 in an annual survey.

The findings, compiled by human resources consultancy ECA International, show that Hong Kong has managed to narrow the gap globally with top-ranked Singapore this year. “Air pollution in Hong Kong continues to be the dominant factor that makes Hong Kong a harder location for international assignees to adapt to living in,” Lee Quane, ECA’s regional director for Asia, said.

The annual survey ranked 254 cities in terms of their quality of life. The data is designed to be used by companies to determine whether they need to pay hardship allowances for relocating expatriate employees.

Hong Kong is routinely named among the top, if not the top, market in the world for its economic exploits. But air pollution has long been blamed for hurting the city’s attractiveness. Just this week, Hong Kong was affected by the strongest sandstorm to hit the mainland this year, sending its air pollution index off the charts. The survey found Hong Kong, along with Beijing and New Delhi, among the worst locations in terms of air quality.

A spokesman for the Environment Bureau said efforts to tackle air pollution were continuing locally and in co-operation with Guangdong authorities. He said that between 1997 and 2008, emissions of smog components, like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, respirable suspended particulates and volatile organic compounds, had fallen by 13 per cent, 29 per cent, 54 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively.

Singapore remained in first place globally, followed by Sydney, Kobe, Yokohama, Tokyo, Copenhagen and Canberra. Hong Kong was ranked No 8 while Melbourne and Dublin rounded out the top 10. Shanghai was the highest ranked mainland city at No 77.

Written by Dennis Eng