Date
19 January 2017
Wong Yam-hong (left) is accusing Regina Ching (right) of being mean over her comments about lead contamination. Photo: HKEJ, Apple Daily
Wong Yam-hong (left) is accusing Regina Ching (right) of being mean over her comments about lead contamination. Photo: HKEJ, Apple Daily

Top health official refuses to back down on lead intake comment

A top Hong Kong health official is doubling down on her claim that lead-contaminated water is safe in certain amounts.

Dr. Regina Ching, head of surveillance and epidemiology in the Center for Health Protection, said it is a “rather complex concept to explain to the public”.

But she said there is no serious health risk if the average lead intake is within the World Health Organization (WHO) limit, Apple Daily reports.

If the lead content is less than 10 milligrams per liter of water, it does not pose a danger in the course of a lifetime, she said.

Ching said the figure is the WHO standard for lifetime consumption of lead-contaminated water.

She made the comments after an investigation by a legislator found excessive lead in the water supply of Kai Ching Estate, a three-year-old public housing development in the former Kai Tak airport.

Ching refused to answer when pressed twice on whether her remarks were insensitive and cold-hearted. 

Dr. Wong Yam-hong from doctors’ group Medecins Inspires accused Ching of being mean and said her comments are unscientific.

Wong said WHO has no safe limit but a standard “tolerable amount” of lead intake, which means any amount of contamination is unsafe.  

“It’s not fitting for a doctor to come out and make insensitive remarks in the middle of a big social issue,” Wong said.

“These remarks could create widespread panic.”

Wong said health officials should have made an effort to explain the matter in a more scientific way, instead of oversimplifying it by tying the risk to the course of a lifetime.

Meanwhile, Water Supplies director Enoch Lam said an in-depth investigation will be made into all water supply equipment for lead content.

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