Hong Kong Air Quality Researcher, Simon Ng Visits USC

Simon Ng, Chief Research Officer at Hong Kong-based nonprofit Civic Exchange, visited the Environmental Health Division on November 3 to present and share information on port air pollution surrounding Hong Kong. Civic Exchange is an “independent public policy think tank undertaking research to advance civic education and engage society to shape public policy.” During Ng’s presentation, researchers at USC Environmental Health and community partners were interested to hear about factors that make Hong Kong both similar and quite different compared to the ports of LA and Long Beach. Being surrounded by water on three sides, Hong Kong is greatly impacted by pollution that is generated from ships traveling to ports on either side of the city, not to mention ships that travel directly to Hong Kong’s port. This makes for some unique challenges in that Ng and colleagues at Civic Exchange must work with a wide variety of local and international stakeholders as they seek to reduce port emissions in and around Hong Kong.

Ng and Civic Exchange have published several reports on the public health impacts of ship emissions in the area, a hot topic for cities with large ports around the world. The reports provide a detailed look at the scope of the problem and control options; valuable information for those looking at policy options and government interventions at ports.

In recent years, Ng and Civic Exchange have partnered with the University of Hong Kong Public Health School on developing a website: The Hedley Environmental Index, which quantifies the financial burden that air pollution places on the region around Hong Kong. This unique site gives the viewer a real-time view of the ever increasing factors and costs such as deaths, hospital bed days, doctor visits and total economic loss. When visiting this site, one can also see real-time concentrations of specific pollutants around Hong Kong.

Civic Exchange is collaborating with the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College on a China – Environment project funded by the LUCE foundation which sponsored Simon’s week long activities in Southern California.

Guest Lecture at Cal State L.A. Spurs Discussion and Dialogue

On April 23, 2014 I had the pleasure of being a guest lecturer at a Health and Wellness class at California State University, Los Angeles. I shared information on air pollution, its health effects, research that is being done by our scientists at the Southern CA Environmental Health Sciences Center and Children’s Environmental Health Center, as well as about career paths in environmental health.  Students were particularly interested in the new Environmental Health Track in the USC Master of Public Health program and the Environmental Health minor for undergraduate students at USC.

USC postdoctoral fellow Davida Becker teaches the class. After my presentation, I asked students to read a short editorial article by Outreach Director Andrea Hricko about the effects of goods movement on environmental health. Students were struck by the article’s description of the path a doll takes after being made in China to get into the hands of a girl in the U.S. –  and all the pollution and ill health effects created by the transportation of goods.

Students then engaged in small group discussions and made observations about impacts from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, sharing some of the things they themselves can do toward making their environment a better place. Topics they raised included:


  • What are the effects of water pollution at the Ports in addition to air pollution?
  • Are the neighborhoods in Long Beach and Wilmington near the Ports considered “environmental justice communities” because they are predominantly minority?  [Yes, because these communities are disproportionately impacted by pollution from ships, trucks and rail.]   
  • Aren’t workers at even a higher risk than residents from air pollution at the Ports? [Yes, because they work in close proximity to the exhaust emitted by ships and idling trucks]

Some students shared what they are doing to create sustainable lifestyle choices, such as home gardening, using public transportation and biking, and other ways to reduce the carbon footprint.

Presentations such as this provide a platform for the USC Environmental Health Outreach Program to educate students about impacts of global trade on the environment and spur discussion on how students can make a difference in the world.        

by Carla Truax