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Hong Kong Anti-Pollution Figure Hedley Leaving for Cleaner Air – BusinessWeek

pic-anthony-j-hedleyLast updated: April 22, 2010

Source: Businessweek via Bloomberg

Hong Kong anti-pollution activist Anthony Hedley said today he has decided to relocate to the Isle of Man because his health makes staying too risky.

Hedley, a 69-year-old professor at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health who has also battled cancer for the past two years, is leaving Hong Kong after 22 years, during which he was a frequent critic of the government’s environmental record.

His decision to leave on May 1 comes just weeks after Hong Kong’s Air Pollution Index reached record levels, hitting the top of the scale at 500 and prompting an outcry by business leaders and residents about deteriorating air quality.

“I am desperately looking forward to breathing clean air in the middle of the Irish Sea,” Hedley said by telephone. “I want to reduce my biological stress by moving to a cleaner environment.”

Hedley said his departure will give him regrets about the people he is leaving behind.

“I feel bad because so many people don’t have this option,” he said.

He said socially mobile people are increasingly “voting with their feet,” by leaving Hong Kong for health reasons.

“It is indeed a sad irony that one of those most committed to alleviating Hong Kong’s air pollution now has to leave the city primarily for that reason,” the Clean Air Network, a local non-governmental advocacy group, said in a statement today.

When Hong Kong’s Air Pollution Index tops 100, it prompts government warnings that people with heart or respiratory illnesses should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities. That is twice the level of 50 considered safe by the World Health Organization.

Levels above 200 in Hong Kong trigger warnings for the general public to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities.

Pollution is often cited as an issue for companies attempting to attract workers to the city. Chief Executive Donald Tsang in January called it unacceptable that air quality reached “dangerous” levels one in every eight days last year.

Written by Frederik Balfour

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