The air has been killing me lately here in Hong Kong. Since our massive T10 Typhoon Vicente, the air has just not been the same. Shortly after Vicente were another two or so typhoons in the area that apparently were keeping wind patterns at a stand-still, causing the pollution cloud over us to just sink in.
I’d previously never really felt it the way others have. I have luckily not gotten pollution-sick, or especially weakened from the air. I admit, I stopped running outside in part because of pollution fears (and the humidity is just too much), but I now open the windows at my flat, especially since I no longer live on a low floor on a major road through Wanchai.
But what exactly is API? And how is air pollution really monitored? I noticed that API is always mentioned in the news forecast and is announced on the digital information boards in the MTR – but what do we do this number?
The index ranges from 0-500, and is measured quite regularly. The government apparently looks at 5 particular pollutants and uses some algorithm to come up with a number. We are told whether it’s “low” “medium” or “high” — but what that relative term is based on is unclear to me. Those with “respiratory problems” are advised to check this index rating carefully. I guess if they have issues, they shoudln’t go out on certain days!
This is all neatly explained in the Environmental Protection Department’s website – but ultimately, I feel it doesn’t REALLY tell me much. What about us “regular folk”? Exactly how dangerous is an API of 200+? What might it do to me? That is not clearly explained anywhere I’ve looked!
I tried to find out what I could do to compare the quality of air in HK with the quality in my hometown of NY, and noticed it’s hard to really compare because each jurisdiction has some different means of calculating air quality.
All I know is that a 2009 reading of particulate matter showed that HK had a score of 50 (for 50 micrograms per cubic meter) and NY’s was 21. In contrast, Beijing had a score in the triple digits!
Well now I finally know what a mega high pollution index day feels like — and looks like. I now know that foggy haze ain’t natural!