Iwas the flu that made Jordan Lee Kin-fung, 10, miss an important final-term exam. The night before Nov 13 was a nightmare. Lee’s temperature hit 40 C and stayed there. He was admitted to Caritas Medical Centre and remained overnight until the fever went down.
The boy was always sick. His mother, Ms Tao, noticed it started after she and her son moved into a cramped, unventilated subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po five years ago. Lee has suffered from poor health ever since. He’s been sick more times than he can count on the fingers of both hands.
The hot summer is the season mother and son fear the most. They suffered through the heat of summer for years, before caving in and turning on the air-conditioning, a luxury that shot their expenses through the ceiling. They hoped that the expense would keep Lee healthy.
A study by Emily Chan Ying-yang of the Chinese University of Hong Kong revealed that when the ambient temperature rose above 28.5 C, for children aged under 15 in Hong Kong the risk of being hospitalized for respiratory diseases rose by an average 19.5 percent for each increase in temperature of 1 C. That compared to a lower susceptibility of only 8.2 percent among the maturer group aged 15-59.
Chan is a pioneer in the field, and the first to assess the casualties wrought by warming temperatures in Hong Kong. When she examined the city’s hospitalization data between 1998 and 2006, she made a startling connection between daily mean temperature and lethality: Once the daily mean temperature increased 1 C above 28.2 C, the overall mortality rate increased 1.8 percent on the same day, and it increased exponentially. Thus for 30.2 C, 2 C above 28.2 C, the mortality rate would increase by 1.8 percent to the power 2. At 31.2 C, 3 C higher than the threshold, the mortality rate heightened by 1.8 percent to the power 3.
“It’s proved that every increase of 1 C above 28.2 C can be perilous to human health,” said Chan, professor of the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care at the CUHK. Chan