Hong Kong pollution levels currently pose a serious health risk to residents.
Officials rolled out a new system that gauges air quality based on "ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter that may be inhaled" on Tuesday (December 31). This marks the first time Hong Kong has changed the way it monitors pollution since 1987.
At the moment, experts are telling residents to limit the amount of time they spend outdoors. This especially rings true for children and the elderly. The new system is reportedly in response to criticism that the government isn't doing enough to fix the problem.
Pollution in Hong Kong has risen significantly since 2007 due to an increased industrial presence and a large number of automobiles that operate on diesel fuel. Several groups have urged the government to take action against what is presently viewed as a serious health risk to citizens.
"This new index offers little help to improve the air, it's only a standard. We really need to see the government implement more measures and take quicker action," Clean Air Network CEO Kwong Sum-yin recently explained to Bloomberg.
To keep people up-to-date with the city's pollution levels, the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department launched an app to coincide with the new Air Quality Health Index. When levels become exceedingly dangerous, folks who download the program will receive alerts. However, the roll-out was reportedly met with extreme skepticism.
Many feel Hong Kong officials should spend more time trying to fix the problem than simply alerting residents when levels are on the rise. Unfortunately, those who don't have access to smartphones or tablets may have a tough time receiving notifications.
"Even if the air is visibly bad, the government always finds a way to say it's fine. I live in Tung Chung so I can taste and see the bad air. I don't need an app to tell me how bad it is there," Joe Butler told the South China Morning Post.
Residents who download the app are given daily updates regarding pollution levels throughout Hong Kong. The new index includes five different levels: low, moderate, high, very high and serious. Although the government is trying to find new ways to alert folks of potential health risks, no one seems to have a solution to the problem at the moment.
Monitoring stations throughout Hong Kong reported very high pollution levels yesterday. While officials struggle to find ways to fix the situation, residents are presently forced to breathe air that could pose a serious risk to their health.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]