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Moving to HK with 4 yo, 3 yo, and newborn baby--Worried about air pollution

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    mandi is offline Registered User
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    Moving to HK with 4 yo, 3 yo, and newborn baby--Worried about air pollution

    It looks like we are moving to Hong Kong this summer. We will be there for a couple of years. I keep coming upon recent news articles and reports about the deteriorating air quality in Hong Kong. This has me very worried about the health of my children. Particularly my newborn who will be around 6 weeks old at the time of the move. Is this a common concern? Do air purifiers work? How does it affect children's outdoor time? Any comments or advice regarding my concerns would be greatly appreciated!

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    evelyne is offline Registered User
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    Yes it's bad for sure. Scary especially when you check the Hedley Index. http://hedleyindex.sph.hku.hk/home.php
    Many kids have some kind of cough through much of the winter, but it is the possible long term effects that are more scary and unknown. It is sad that even on a cloud free day the sky is usually grey.

    We have been here for 8 years and have been talking of leaving due to the pollution before we even got here. But there is enough keeping us here for now. Most of us living here in HK have good reasons to be here and we have to weigh pros and cons with pollution as part of a more complex equation. If you have made the decision to come you will learn to live with the pollution. Air filters can help but only marginally and the best ones cost a lot.

    Some parents worry more than others. I do check the Hedley Index and limit outdoor play when it is very bad. But it is very bad through most of the winter so I realize we had a better quality of life when I worried and had read less about the effects of pollution! Not going outdoors regularly is also not a healthy option. And stressing about pollution does make things worst.

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    penguinsix is offline Registered User
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    Hi

    I think my first point would be my most blunt: if you or any of your children are currently having diagnosed respiratory problems, than I would seriously reconsider a relocation to Hong Kong. If you have a problem already, coming into a more polluted environment could make things a bit worse.

    However, while many people are very concerned about the air quality, when you live here you can still find a way to do things in this environment. We do not let our children to play on bad air quality days, opting instead for them to play indoors in our building's playroom which has some filters running. We avoid, when possible, their travel to highly polluted areas (such as Central) if the pollution is above a certain level. I've cancelled their football practice in Happy Valley on particularly bad days. Our school also limits outdoor recess if the API is above a certain amount. We also run HEPA filters in our house, one each in the bedrooms with the kids and a larger model for the living room, all in an attempt to keep things a bit more manageable.

    Basically, we check the pollution levels more often than we check the weather, and treat bad pollution days like bad weather days.

    Some people rationalize away the pollution by attempting some comparisons. "Well it's not as bad as Beijing" or "the South Side seems better than Central" but the reality is that air pollution should be compared to one standard: what is healthy, and what is not.

    At the moment, and for most of the last few weeks this Winter, the entire island has been covered in what is considered "unhealthy" air by most Western government air quality standards. As of this morning, the air is a 'Code Orange' air quality day by US standards (with one station reporting 'Code Red'). Every station in Hong Kong is current > 100% of the World Health Organization maximums, and Causeway Bay is currently over 200% of the maximums (by the end of the day it will likely reach 300% of the maximums). We are a level 5 out of 6 on Australia's air quality index (Very Poor Air Quality) and about a level 7 out of 10 by UK air quality standards.

    This is the app I wrote which will help you monitor the air quality by western standards. It's free for the iPhone.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hong...504536152?mt=8



    You can "try" to live in an area with less pollution, but it's really kind of like the situation of "what part of Hong Kong will stay dry when a typhoon comes to the city?" The South Side of Hong Kong island "seems" better by many--the air doesn't "look" as bad as it does in Central, but the government has refused all requests to put in a air quality monitoring station so there is no scientific proof that I've seen that proves it is better than other parts of the island. Still, many try to live in areas further away from the Central business area (cars), the power plants (coal exhaust) and the cargo ports (ship exhaust) in an attempt to get further away from some of the main local source of pollution. Unfortunately when the Winter winds shift and bring the air down from the factories in China, there isn't anyplace you can really hide.

    There are good days, even good stretches. For example we had a nice run this Fall of several weeks, months even where the air was below the maximums in most parts of the city (the Central Business district and Causeway Bay will top the maximums pretty much every day due to the lack of air circulation and abundance of vehicles). But other parts of the city will report generally good air quality such that you aren't as concerned running around and whatnot.

    It's all a bit of a trade off. As I mentioned at the start, if air pollution is a significant medical issue in your family, than whether to live in a certain part of the city with air filters isn't really the question--whether to live in Hong Kong is what you should be asking. If you are still interested in the city, there are ways to mitigate some of the dangers but you will want to pay close attention to your children's health and lung development as they grow.

    Good luck with your move.
    starbucks2, rani, carang and 3 others like this.

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    starbucks2 is offline Registered User
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    penguinsix - thanks for your detailed and very thoughtful response.

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    OurHongKong is offline Registered User
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    The pollution in Hong Kong is of great concern to many and right so. Unfortunately the government turns most of the time a blind eye and try to kid themselves by applying outdated air pollution standards. Furthermore do we "import" a lot of pollution from the north, China. This is more than obvious on days when having winds coming from the north.

    It can be expected to get worse before authorities will really introduce sensible and drastic measures. At that time things will get better and we might end up with "better" air quality, which might be only slightly better than today.

    How good is the air quality at your current location when measured with the same standards as it is measured here in HK ?

    If you objectively live in a much better air quality than HK, better stay there and give HK a pass. No money and career boost can give you back your health.

    And if you come to HK, make sure your company can afford to pay for you to live in the "healthier" areas and this are only in the south of HK island and you need a budget of HKD 100,000 and up per month for rent only.

    I live in HK over 25 years and just stay because HK can be like a drug and I got addicted to this place. But HK is not the best place for kids to grow up. Our kids always ask when will be the next time to go to Europe on holiday because there they can play in a garden, in the woods, can visit their friends without arranged play dates and arranged transportation. Don't need to stay indoors because of pollution tec. And they were born here.
    Last edited by OurHongKong; 01-30-2013 at 06:47 AM.

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    carang is offline Registered User
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    oh, please! the "healthier" areas? the southside? only available at $100,000?

    you can choose to pay $100,000/month or you could choose to live in the new territories... much less "roadside" pollution! we pay $20,000/month (5 bed, 4 bath) in sai kung country park .

    that said, after 18 years here, we are now contemplating a move to canada. one of the main reasons being the pollution.

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    OurHongKong is offline Registered User
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    You are correct that the Sai Kung area has less roadside pollution, for obvious reasons). The problem is that the pollution from China hits the areas in the New Territories first and that's where Sai Kung is located. Our winds in HK are mostly from the north and the east and those are the winds bringing us the nice gift from the Mainland.

    When sailing along the South side of HK island to the NT up to Mirs Bay I often can see the difference in the smog blanket over HK and you will be surprised how Sai Kung disappears in this yellowish blanket while HK South side still is much clearer.
    Last edited by OurHongKong; 01-31-2013 at 07:25 AM.

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    carang is offline Registered User
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    And you would be surprised how southside disappears from another angle.

    My problem was not with your recommending southside. my problem was with your statement that you need at least $100k/m housing. You do realise that is 5x the median household income for hk right? it is utterly ridiculous.
    Sent from my GT-I8150 using GeoClicks Mobile

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