Air pollution announced as fourth biggest killer in the world

Air pollution has emerged as the world's fourth biggest cause of premature death, according to the results of a joint study by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

The findings show that air pollution now kills six times as many people as Malaria and four times as many as HIV/Aids, with one in 10 deaths now being attributed to air pollution exposure.

Renowned for its poor air quality, Hong Kong still lags far behind the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s safety levels. According to the Hedley Environmental Index, which measures Hong Kong’s pollution, the territory experienced PM 2.5 levels in excess of the WHO short-term limit for the first four months of 2016. Measuring one-thirtieth the width of a human hair, PM2.5 particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and are known to cause illnesses such as lung cancer and heart disease.

The Index also shows that between January 1 and September 1 of this year there were 1,117 premature deaths due to air pollution in Hong Kong alone. The World Bank’s study has estimated the cost these deaths have on the global economy to be around US$225 billion dollars in foregone labour income, specifically $66 billion in South Asia.

While the problem is certainly serious, environmental campaigners believe that, collectively, Hong Kongers can make a difference. Groups such as the Hong Kong Clean Air Network (CAN) are working to build knowledge among the public and find sustainable solutions for the future, while the Environment Bureau's ‘A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong’, launched in 2013, continues to implement air quality improvement measures across the territory, including tackling emissions from motor vehicles, marine vessels and power plants.

To read the World Bank's report in full, click here.

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