Hong Kong’s new air index confirms what anyone trying to breathe already knows

Days like this are becoming the norm.
Days like this are becoming the norm.
Image: Getty/Lam Yik Fei
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Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department recently introduced a brand-new air quality measurement system to provide “more timely and useful air pollution information to the public,” complete with a smartphone app and a nifty scale that rates residents’ health risks based on the current pollution levels.

Since it was rolled out on Dec. 30, the air in Hong Kong has been mostly awful. For most neighborhoods, particularly on the north and more developed side of Hong Kong island, the health risk scale has ranged from “high” to “very high” to the absolute worst level “serious.” On the afternoon of Jan. 8 it was so bad you couldn’t see from one side of Victoria Harbor to the other.

The AQHI on Jan. 8 at 5 pm in Hong Kong.
The AQHI on Jan. 8 at 5 pm in Hong Kong.
Image: Environmental Protection Department

Hong Kong’s reaction to the new index has been scathing. “Tell Us What We Don’t Know,” the South China Morning Post wrote. ”I can taste and see the bad air. I don’t need an app to tell me how bad it is,” one teacher said.

“It’s pointless having an index saying that you’re going to die,” James Middleton, chairman of local charity Clear the Air, told Time Out Hong Kong. “What they should be doing is stopping the reasons that you’re going to die.”

Pollution levels have been increasing in Hong Kong on recent years to the point where the city is usually shrouded in smog. As of mid-December, Hong Kong had already registered over 300 polluted days in 2013.