Guojun He, Chun Wai Cheung , Yuhang Pan; Journal of Environmental Economics and Management

Key Takeaways:

  1. Hong Kong has among the highest per capita incomes in the world, but is also highly polluted. A significant portion of the pollution stems from the Pearl River Delta, a manufacturing hub northwest of Hong Kong.
  2. Using air quality, weather, population, and mortality data, this study looks at the change in air pollution and cardiorespiratory deaths from 2000-2002—before a massive SARS epidemic in 2003—and compares it to the periods from 2004-2008 and 2009-2015.
  3. The study finds that, on average, a 10-unit increase in the air pollution index (API) causes 1.77 percent more cardiorespiratory deaths each month, and the effect is larger among the elderly.
  4. The effect of air pollution on cardio-respiratory deaths dramatically declined after 2003. From 2000-2002, increased air pollution led to a 3 percent increase in cardiorespiratory deaths. It had little to no impact during the more recent periods studied.
  5. The researchers attribute the drop in cardio-respiratory deaths after the SARS epidemic to vast improvements in the medical system, and not to a drop in pollution itself or an increased awareness of pollution that could have led to a greater uptake of masks and air purifiers. Populations living closer to hospitals with emergency departments were less at risk of dying from pollution-induced cardio-respiratory diseases.