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Air Pollution and Quality of Life
 
The sharing session cum graduation ceremony of the Community Sports Club Management Development Programme Advanced Course was held successfully on 3 March this year. We were honoured to have Professor Frank FU from our co-organiser, Hong Kong Baptist University, give us a speech about ˇ§Air pollution and quality of lifeˇ¨. Here is a summary of the speech.
 
Photo Professor Frank FU,
Hong Kong Baptist University
 
 

Local air pollution

Hong Kong people are paying more attention to health and quality of life, and various sports venues have been designed for children, adults and elders in the districts for doing healthy exercises. However, air quality has gotten worse along with the rapid development of the city, seriously affecting the health and everyday life of citizens; children and elders in particular are susceptible to respiratory illnesses. Air pollution has become a crucial issue for the mass public.

Citizensˇ¦ understanding and awareness of local air pollution come mainly from the ˇ§Air Pollution Indexˇ¨ (API) provided by the Environmental Protection Department. The index is recorded from stations in the districts based on the level of six main air pollutants (including ozone, suspended particulates, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead), and classified into five levels from low to severe according to how severe an effect these pollutants have on our body. It also shows the types of the major air pollutants. Our system of API calculation is different from other countries and regions. In general, the API in Hong Kong ranges from medium to high. An API below 50 (low to medium) is acceptable, while an API of above 50 that the air pollution level is getting higher and may affect health. Professor FU especially mentioned that the API does not account for the concentration of Hazardous Air Pollutants, and said that the public should take note of this.

 
 

Air pollution is particularly hazardous to children and the elderly

When the API rises above 50, children and elders should avoid being outdoors for more than 60 minutes at a time. The respiratory system and lungs of children are still at a stage of growth, so if children are exposed to air-pollutants outdoors for an extended period of time, they could easily become infected, which could affect their long-term growth. Since elders with respiratory illnesses have lower immunity to diseases, it would also be easy for them to become infected in polluted areas. Also, they have relatively higher morbidity and mortality rates. Men are also more vulnerable to air pollutants than women.

We should avoid doing outdoor exercises or staying outdoors when the API level is high. For example, air pollution is severe in Beijing and there have even been sandstorms in recent years. Many local citizens would go out wearing masks and would also avoid exercising outdoors for more than half an hour. Of course, exercise is essential to health. Professor FU therefore suggested building more indoor sports centres for the general public, so that they can exercise safely and maintain good quality of life without having to be outdoors. He also suggested placing air purifiers at schools in urban areas, and that schools should refer to the API when deciding whether to let students have outdoor activities. The government, on the other hand should install additional air quality monitoring equipment, so that the citizens can be more informed about local air quality.

Professor FU concluded with some research findings, stating that two-thirds of Hong Kong citizens get no more than 30 minutes of exercise every week. He encouraged us to do more exercise, enjoy exercise and improve our health for a better life.

 
Photo

Professor FU with the graduates and tutors of the Community Sports Club Management Development Programme Advanced Course



 
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