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September 7th, 2011:

Tim Cook’s Challenge: Sorting Out Apple’s Chinese Supply Chain

7 Sept. 2011

While its design and technology consistently win praise for pushing the envelope, Apple’s environmental and labor practices haven’t always met with such approval. The latest criticism comes from a group of Chinese NGOs (Friends of Nature, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Green Beagle, Envirofriends, Green Stone Environmental Action Network) that claims to have found evidence of “severe damage to the environment” at five Apple suppliers in the country.

Of course, the perils of building a large supply chain are well-documented. Nike famously learned from its big Chinese slap in the face to better monitor labor practices across its suppliers. The Gap similarly sorted its supply chain out after photos of child laborers at one of its suppliers went viral. Now most consider the apparel industry to be leaps ahead of any other when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and supply chain control.

It’s not that the IT industry is new to the idea of supply chain management. Rather, at the same time that electronics companies are building more and larger facilities in China, Chinese activists are shining a brighter light on the performance of those companies.

Ironically, the electronics industry has participated in the creation of its own problem, in a way. It’s not just that larger companies have larger supply chains, but also that as more and more people are walking around with iPhones in their pockets, it has become easier to document labor and environmental issues at facilities around the globe. Moreover, as China has become a business center in its own right, there seems to be less fear around losing the jobs and investments of foreign companies as a result of criticizing their behavior in the country. There’s also growing public awareness of the environmental impacts of the IT industry in general.

Information technology is not the virtual industry that people often envision, Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), told GreenBiz. “It’s an actual industry with huge amounts of discharged pollution, including toxics and heavy metals.”

On the surface, Apple has all the right processes in place: rigorous auditing, transparent reporting, a supplier code of conductbased on that formulated by the Electronics Industry Code of Conduct (EICC, co-founded by HP, Intel and IBM back in 2004 to deal with exactly these sorts of issues and help the electronics industry to voluntarily address them). But according to the Chinese NGOs, these commitments aren’t making their way from the company’s website to its on-the-ground operations.

The groups lob several pretty severe accusations at the company in their report, released last week, but a big part of the problem seems to be transparency. Secrecy is key to mind- and market-share in the tech world, so how to balance the need for transparency from a social responsibility perspective with the need for secrecy from a business perspective? This is the million-dollar question Apple, and other electronics companies, are trying to answer now. Given the clandestine nature of tech manufacturing, the Chinese NGOs spent several months trying to pinpoint Apple suppliers in the country before investigating the practices of those suppliers. And according to a Financial Times reported, they still got it wrong. Apple has contacted the authors of the report to sit down and discuss the problems, but have also notified them that some of the suppliers listed in the report are in fact not Apple suppliers.

This latest report is a sequel to an earlier one, published back in January, that focused on various issues with toxics in Apple’s Chinese supply chain, and ranked 29 IT companies operating in China based on their environmental and human health performance, and the transparency of their business practices (Apple shared last place). According to the report’s authors, Apple has “systematically failed to respond to all queries regarding their supply chain environmental violations,” which spurred the NGOs to further investigate and publicize the more egregious examples.

Amongst the groups’ accusations against Apple are charges of water contamination from a suspected PCB supplier to the company, the emission of toxic gases from a metal surfacing company with suspected ties to Apple, and dumping of hazardous materials such as copper, nickel and cyanide, by companies thought to be Apple suppliers. The report also calls Apple’s auditing processes into question, pointing to the deadly explosion at an iPad2 production facility in Chengdu back in May. According to the report’s authors, the facility’s construction was rushed (76 days to construct what was to be the world’s largest iPad2 supplier), with machinery being installed at the same time that production was taking place and workers receiving only minimal training before assuming their posts. “For this kind of company to have passed an audit led by Apple’s Vice President and then to go on to win the main contracts for Apple’s global iPad market, it must surely leave one to question Apple’s auditing process,” the report says.

The Chinese report comes a few months after a wave of worker suicides at Apple suppliers in the country and just a few years after a Greenpeace report that panned the company for using toxics in its products in general. Apple responded quickly back then, with Jobs saying the company was actually very committed to environmental performance, but just didn’t like to talk about it. Greenpeace pushed for proof, and the company set about eliminating arsenic, mercury, and brominated and chlorinated chemicals from its products. Apple also committed earlier this year to eliminating conflict minerals from its supply chain.

Nonetheless, Apple seems less prepared to deal with this new China supply chain problem. Given the great CEO switch of 2011, that’s not necessarily surprising, but this–perhaps even more so than the Samsung debacle–could be Tim Cook’s first big challenge in leading the company. It will certainly put the former COO’s reputation as a supply chain genius to the test.

The recent report notes that several other IT companies previously called out by the Chinese environmentalist groups have already made steps to improve both practices and transparency. ”During the past year and four months, a group of NGOs made attempts to push Apple along with 28 other IT brands to face these problems and the methods with which they may be resolved,” the recent report reads. “Of these 29 brands, many recognized the seriousness of the pollution problem within the IT industry, with Siemens, Vodafone, Alcatel, Philips and Nokia being amongst the first batch of brands to start utilizing the publicly available information. These companies then began to overcome the spread of pollution created by global production and sourcing, and thus turn their sourcing power into a driving force for China’s pollution control. However, Apple has become a special case. Even when faced with specific allegations regarding its suppliers, the company refuses to provide answers and continues to state that ‘it is our long-term policy not to disclose supplier information.’”

According to IPE, Apple has now agreed to sit down with the NGOs and discuss the issues raised in their reports. In the meantime, Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, issued a quick statement to the media: “Apple is committed to driving the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply chain,” he said. “We require that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made.”

The company’s 2011 supplier responsibility report also addressed some of the problems raised by the Chinese groups, including the poisoning of workers at a Suzhou factory, and the worker suicides at Foxconn, a supplier not only for Apple, but also for Sony, HP and Dell.

So far, the American media seems largely to be on Apple’s side, subtly blaming Chinese suppliers and the Chinese government for the problem. “Apple is hardly the only company facing criticism over its Chinese supply chain,” David Barboza wrote in The New York Times. “In recent years, dozens of multinationals have been accused of using Chinese factories that employed child labor, violated the country’s labor laws and fouled its waterways.”

“Widespread environmental degradation has accompanied China’s breakneck economic growth, and the government has been criticized for failing to take steps to curb pollution,” Reuters reporter Michael Martina wrote of the report.

Whether the public picks up on this story at all and whether it creates the sort of consumer backlash Nike’s faux pas did in the 1990s remains to be seen. Between the public’s short attention span and the appeal of all things Apple, it seems unlikely. Apple also looks to be picking up the pace in dealing with the recent batch of accusations, which should help its cause if the public decides to tune in. No matter what happens, it will be interesting to see how Cook, and Apple, deal with the problem.

Ferries’ new technology may help clear the air

South China Morning Post – 7 Sept. 2011

Oily black smoke belching from Star Ferry vessels plying Victoria Harbour could become a thing of the past if trials of new exhaust-scrubber technology prove successful.

The Star Ferry has already fitted one vessel with a system that uses seawater to remove sulphur dioxide from the black exhaust, and the company is now working with the University of Hong Kong on an enhanced version to remove nitrogen oxide.

The upgrade would substantially reduce the amount of soot pumped into the atmosphere by the firm’s ferries and cut the harmful effects of the emissions on the public.

Civic Exchange, the public policy think tank, estimated that about 3.8 million people live in close proximity to Hong Kong port, including Kwai Chung, and risked direct exposure to shipping and port-related emissions high in sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants.

Star Ferry general manager Johnny Leung Tak-hing said the use of the scrubber technology, which has been developed in conjunction with the ferry company, university and a Canadian expert, would offer a more cost-effective solution than using ultra-low sulphur diesel.

A 740-day trial using ultra-low-sulphur diesel onboard the Day Star resulted in several engine-related issues including a 10 per cent loss of power and uneven cylinder liner wear. The low sulphur fuel was also about HK$1 per litre more expensive than conventional marine diesel, adding around HK$1.5 million a year to the firm’s fuel costs.

Leung said the seawater scrubber can reduce “90 per cent of sulphur dioxide which is comparable to using ultra-low sulphur dioxide”. The scrubber also “significantly removed visible smoke” while pollution in seawater used to clean the exhaust emissions was within regulatory limits.

But Leung added the scrubber had less of an impact in removing other pollutants. “We were not content with the overall result so we are working with Hong Kong University on a nitrogen oxide prototype.”

Leung said the research team hoped to make a submission to the Environmental Protection Department’s pilot green transport fund in the next two months to finance the prototype. He hoped a three-month trial to assess the overall operating efficiency of the system could start early next year.

Leung estimated it would cost around HK$1 million to install the integrated emissions scrubber on each of the company’s 11 ships. But a final decision whether to invest the money would depend on the results from the trial and the Star Ferry’s long-term investment strategy.

Daimler to Test Smart Electric Cars in Hong Kong as Smog Worsens

By Bloomberg News – Sep 6, 2011

Daimler AG (DAI), the world’s second- largest manufacturer of luxury cars, will provide a trial version of its Smart electric car to partners in Hong Kong as the city battles record pollution.

Daimler’s partners in the trial, which include the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Swire Coca-Cola HK, will use the two-seater car for six to 12 months, the carmaker said in a statement today. Stuttgart-based Daimler’s Mercedes Benz unit will offer a service center with technicians and mechanics.

The pilot program, which will run for four years, joins a push by automakers such as Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (7211) and Nissan Motor Co. to introduce electric vehicles in Hong Kong, where pollution reached “very high” levels on a record one in four days in 2010, according to government data. The city government plans to replace some fuel-powered vehicles with electric ones and is trying hybrid buses, lawmakers said in February.

“A combination of electric vehicles and cleaner energy is a very good recipe for Hong Kong to become a greener city,” Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s environment secretary, said today. The city has 170 electric vehicles and will increase the number of charging stations to 1,000 in a year from 300, he said.

Smart Car

Daimler’s Smart electric car, which can travel 135 kilometers (84 miles) on a full charge, won’t be produced globally until 2012, according to the automaker’s website. In Asia, the company has launched similar pilot programs in Indonesia, Japan and Singapore.

The other four partners who will get the car in Hong Kong are CLP Power Hong Kong Ltd., Jardine Airport Services Ltd., Yan Chai Hospital and Hongkong Electric Co.

Vehicles are the second-biggest source of pollution in Hong Kong after power stations, and their numbers rose 9.6 percent between 2004 and 2009, according to the government.

Nissan agreed to supply advance units of its Leaf electric car to Hong Kong, the government said in January. Mitsubishi Motors already sells its battery-powered i-MiEV in the city.

Daimler’s Mercedes marque was the second-largest luxury car brand based on the latest full-year numbers.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kae Inoue at

US PM Standards Revision – 2006 | Particulate Matter | Air & Radiation | US EPA HONG KONG IS DELIBERATELY LACKING THIS IMPORTANT PM2.5 STANDARD


Particle pollution, also called particulate matter or PM, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets in the air. When breathed in, these particles can reach the deepest regions of the lungs. Exposure to particle pollution is linked to a variety of significant health problems, ranging from aggravated asthma to premature death in people with heart and lung disease. Particle pollution also is the main cause of visibility impairment in the nation’s cities and national parks.

To protect public health and welfare, EPA issues National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six criteria pollutants, particulate matter is one of these.  EPA first issued standards for particulate matter in 1971; and revised the standards in 1987 and 1997.  In September 2006, the Agency revised the 1997 standards.

The revised 2006 standards address two categories of particle pollution: fine particles(PM2.5), which are 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller; and inhalable coarse particles (PM10) which are smaller than 10 micrometers and larger than 2.5 micrometers.

The 2006 standards tighten the 24-hour fine particle standard from 65 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) to 35 µg/m3, and retain the current annual fine particle standard at 15 µg/m3.

EPA has decided to retain the existing 24-hour PM10 standard of 150 µg/m3. Due to a lack of evidence linking health problems to long-term exposure to coarse particle pollution, the Agency has revoked the annual PM10 standard.

The Agency selected the levels for the final standards after reviewing thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies about the effects of particle pollution on public health and welfare. External scientific advisors and the public examined EPA’s science and policy review documents. The Agency also carefully considered public comments on the proposed standards. EPA held three public hearings and received over 120,000 written comments.

While EPA provisionally assessed new, peer-reviewed studies about particulate matter and health (including some studies received during the comment period), these studies were not the basis for the final decision. EPA will consider those studies during the next review of the PM standards.  Learn more about the process of reviewing air quality standards.

What do the New Standards Mean for Your Area?

In 2004, several areas in the United States were designated as not meeting the 1997 air quality standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).  See if your area was designated as not meeting the 1997 standards.

In 2006, EPA strengthened the air quality standards for particle pollution.  The Agency expects designations based on 2007-2009 air quality data to take effect in 2010.



Milestone 1997 PM2.5 Primary NAAQS 2006 PM2.5 Primary NAAQS
Promulgation of Standard July 1997 Sep. 2006
Effective Date of Standard Sep. 1997 Dec. 18, 2006
State Recommendations to EPA Feb. 2004
(based on 2001-2003 monitoring data)
Dec. 18, 2007
(based on 2004-2006 monitoring data)
Final Designations Signature Dec. 2004 October 8, 2009
Effective Date of Designations April 2005 30 days after publication in the Federal Register
SIPs Due April 2008 3 years after effective date of designations
Attainment Date April 2010
(based on 2007-2009 monitoring data)
No later than 5 years after effective date of designations
Attainment Date with Extension Up to April 2015 No later than 10 years from effective date of designations

PM Implementation – Programs and Requirements for Reducing Particle Pollution


April 21, 2011 – Draft Energy Efficiency / Renewable Energy manual available for comment

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six criteria pollutants; particle pollution (also known as particulate matter) is one of these.  EPA works with partners at state, local, and tribal air quality agencies to meet these standards.

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), as amended in 1990, each state must develop a plan describing how it will attain and maintain the NAAQS.  In other words, how it plans to clean up polluted areas and keep them clean.  This plan is called the State Implementation Plan (SIP) and is required under Section 110 of the CAA (40 CFR Part 51, Subparts F & G).  In general, the SIP is a collection of programs, including:

  • a monitoring program, which is a collection of monitoring devices throughout the country which provide actual measurements of the concentrations in the air, to identify whether an area is meeting the air quality standards, and if not, how much reductions are needed to meet those standards;
  • air quality calculations and computer modeling, which are used to predict future trends and the effects of emissions reduction strategies;
  • emissions inventories, which describe the sources and categories of emissions to the air for a given pollutant, and how much is emitted by each source or source category;
  • control strategy studies whose goal is finding the best way to reduce emissions in order to meet air quality standards;
  • formal adoption of measures (enforceable by EPA, States and citizens) which ensure that we will achieve the reductions deemed necessary in the planning process;
  • periodic review to evaluate whether those needed reductions were achieved in reality, and whether they had the predicted result.

The air quality agency responsible for the State Implementation Plan, (usually a state agency) must provide the public an opportunity to review the plan before sending it to EPA for approval.

In cases where the EPA fails to approve a state implementation plan, the Agency can issue and enforce a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) to ensure attainment and maintenance of the NAAQS.   In addition, the Clean Air Act contains penalties, referred to as “sanctions” which EPA can impose in areas not satisfying the State Implementation Plan requirements.

More information

PM Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) – find out what air quality levels are used to define “clean air” for particles under the Federal Clean Air Act

Particulate Matter Designations – find out if a geographic area you are interested in meets clean air standards for particle pollution

Regulatory Actions – find EPA regulations detailing the requirements for State Implementation plans for particle pollution, and fact sheets and summaries of those regulations

Controlling Particle Pollution – find information, and links to information, on work that is underway to reduce particles in the air, both by reducing directly emitted particles, and by reducing emissions of pollutants that are gases when emitted, but which form particles in the atmosphere.

Links to State Web Sites – State web sites with helpful information to meet the 1997 PM 2.National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

The Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990, requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR part 50) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The Clean Air Act established two types of national air quality standards. Primary standards set limits to protect public health, including the health of “sensitive” populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly. Secondary standardsset limits to protect public welfare, including protection against decreased visibility, damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings.

The EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for six principal pollutants, which are called “criteria” pollutants. They are listed below. Units of measure for the standards are parts per million (ppm) by volume, parts per billion (ppb – 1 part in 1,000,000,000) by volume, milligrams per cubic meter of air (mg/m3), and micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3).

National Ambient Air Quality Standards

Primary Standards Secondary Standards
Pollutant Level Averaging Time Level Averaging Time
9 ppm
(10 mg/m3)
8-hour (1) None
35 ppm
(40 mg/m3)
1-hour (1)
Lead 0.15 µg/m3 (2) Rolling 3-Month Average Same as Primary
53 ppb (3) Annual
(Arithmetic Average)
Same as Primary
100 ppb 1-hour (4) None
150 µg/m3 24-hour (5) Same as Primary
15.0 µg/m3 Annual (6)
(Arithmetic Average)
Same as Primary
35 µg/m3 24-hour (7) Same as Primary
Ozone 0.075 ppm
(2008 std)
8-hour (8) Same as Primary
0.08 ppm
(1997 std)
8-hour (9) Same as Primary
0.12 ppm 1-hour (10) Same as Primary
0.03 ppm (11)
(1971 std)
(Arithmetic Average)
0.5 ppm 3-hour (1)
0.14 ppm (11)
(1971 std)
24-hour (1)
75 ppb (12) 1-hour None

(1) Not to be exceeded more than once per year.

(2)Final rule signed October 15, 2008.  The 1978 lead standard (1.5 µg/m3 as a quarterly average) remains in effect until one year after an area is designated for the 2008 standard, except that in areas designated nonattainment for the 1978 standard, the 1978 standard remains in effect until implementation plans to attain or maintain the 2008 standard are approved.

(3) The official level of the annual NO2 standard is 0.053 ppm, equal to 53 ppb, which is shown here for the purpose of clearer comparison to the 1-hour standard

(4) To attain this standard, the 3-year average of the 98th percentile of the daily maximum 1-hour average at each monitor within an area must not exceed 100 ppb (effective January 22, 2010).

(5) Not to be exceeded more than once per year on average over 3 years.

(6) To attain this standard, the 3-year average of the weighted annual mean PM2.5 concentrations from single or multiple community-oriented monitors must not exceed 15.0 µg/m3.

(7) To attain this standard, the 3-year average of the 98th percentile of 24-hour concentrations at each population-oriented monitor within an area must not exceed 35 µg/m3 (effective December 17, 2006).

(8) To attain this standard, the 3-year average of the fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hour average ozone concentrations measured at each monitor within an area over each year must not exceed 0.075 ppm.  (effective May 27, 2008)

(9) (a) To attain this standard, the 3-year average of the fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hour average ozone concentrations measured at each monitor within an area over each year must not exceed 0.08 ppm.
(b) The 1997 standard—and the implementation rules for that standard—will remain in place for implementation purposes as EPA undertakes rulemaking to address the transition from the 1997 ozone standard to the 2008 ozone standard.
(c) EPA is in the process of reconsidering these standards (set in March 2008).

(10) (a) EPA revoked the 1-hour ozone standard in all areas, although some areas have continuing obligations under that standard (“anti-backsliding”).
(b) The standard is attained when the expected number of days per calendar year with maximum hourly average concentrations above 0.12 ppm is < 1.

(11) The 1971 sulfur dioxide standards remain in effect until one year after an area is designated for the 2010 standard, except that in areas designated nonattainment for the 1971 standards, the 1971 standards remain in effect until implementation plans to attain or maintain the 2010 standards are approved.

(12) Final rule signed June 2, 2010. To attain this standard, the 3-year average of the 99th percentile of the daily maximum 1-hour average at each monitor within an area must not exceed 75 ppb.


Asia pollution blamed for halt in warming: study

Smoke billows from chimneys at an industrial district near Tokyo February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

LONDON (Reuters) – Smoke belching from Asia’s rapidly growing economies is largely responsible for a halt in global warming in the decade after 1998 because of sulphur’s cooling effect, even though greenhouse gas emissions soared, a U.S. study said on Monday.

The paper raised the prospect of more rapid, pent-up climate change when emerging economies eventually crack down on pollution.

World temperatures did not rise from 1998 to 2008, while manmade emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel grew by nearly a third, various data show.

The researchers from Boston and Harvard Universities and Finland’s University of Turku said pollution, and specifically sulphur emissions, from coal-fueled growth in Asia was responsible for the cooling effect.

Sulphur allows water drops or aerosols to form, creating hazy clouds which reflect sunlight back into space.

“Anthropogenic activities that warm and cool the planet largely cancel after 1998, which allows natural variables to play a more significant role,” the paper said.

Natural cooling effects included a declining solar cycle after 2002, meaning the sun’s output fell.

The study said that the halt in warming had fueled doubts about anthropogenic climate change, where scientists say manmade greenhouse gas emissions are heating the Earth.

“It has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008,” said the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

A peak in temperatures in 1998 coincided with a strong El Nino weather event, a natural shift which brings warm waters to the surface of the Pacific Ocean every few years.

Subsequent years have still included nine of the top 10 hottest years on record, while the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said 2010 was tied for the record.

A U.N. panel of climate scientists said in 2007 that it was 90 percent certain that humankind was causing global warming.


Sulphur aerosols may remain in the atmosphere for several years, meaning their cooling effect will gradually abate once smokestack industries clean up.

The study echoed a similar explanation for reduced warming between the 1940s and 1970s, blamed on sulphur emissions before Western economies cleaned up largely to combat acid rain.

“The post 1970 period of warming, which constitutes a significant portion of the increase in global surface temperature since the mid 20th century, is driven by efforts to reduce air pollution,” it said.

Sulphur emissions are linked to coal consumption which in China grew more than 100 percent in the decade to 2008, or nearly three times the rate of the previous 10 years, according to data from the energy firm BP.

Other climate scientists broadly supported Monday’s study, stressing that over longer time periods rising greenhouse gas emissions would over-ride cooling factors.

“Long term warming will continue unless emissions are reduced,” said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at Britain’s Met Office.

Index of air quality in the world’s major cities: September 6

Daily air quality index of some of the world’s major cities on September 6, using data from AirNow, CITEAIR, and the American Embassy in Beijing.

City Average 05/09/2011 Average 06/09/2011
Madrid NA
Beijing NA
Beijing US embassy stats
Shanghai NA
Hong Kong
Seoul NA
New York
San Francisco
Mexico City
New Delhi

The Air Quality Index (AQI) or Air Pollution Index (API) measures the parts of pollutant in a specified volume of air. The lower the AQI the fewer particles of pollution are in the air. For a more detailed explanation see

All results are color-coded following the American AQI standard shown below. For all countries outside of Europe, the US and Canada, that region’s definition of AQI terms has been accepted.


Air Quality
Unhealthy for sensitive groups
Very Unhealthy

Data: Data relating to Europe, the US and Canada is taken from CITEAIR – Common Information to European Air (http://www.airnow.gov; data concerning China is taken from both official Chinese government sources and the US Embassy’s automated air index Twitter account. For all countries the data displayed falls within either that country’s definition of the level of air quality or the international AQI index. Data for all European, US and Canadian cities refers to background, not roadside, levels of air quality.

All data was collected at 8:00 am GMT on September 6.

Air Quality Standards

Humans can be adversely affected by exposure to air pollutants in ambient air. In response, the European Union has developed an extensive body of legislation which establishes health based standards and objectives for a number of pollutants in air. These standards and objectives are summarised in the table below. These apply over differing periods of time because the observed health impacts associated with the various pollutants occur over different exposure times.

Pollutant Concentration Averaging period Legal nature Permitted exceedences each year
Fine articles (PM2.5) 25 µg/m3*** 1 year Target value entered into force 1.1.2010
Limit value enters into force 1.1.2015
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) 350 µg/m3 1 hour Limit value entered into force 1.1.2005 24
125 µg/m3 24 hours Limit value entered into force 1.1.2005 3
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) 200 µg/m3 1 hour Limit value entered into force 1.1.2010 18
40 µg/m3 1 year Limit value entered into force 1.1.2010* n/a
PM10 50 µg/m3 24 hours Limit value entered into force 1.1.2005** 35
40 µg/m3 1 year Limit value entered into force 1.1.2005** n/a
Lead (Pb) 0.5 µg/m3 1 year Limit value entered into force 1.1.2005 (or 1.1.2010 in the immediate vicinity of specific, notified industrial sources; and a 1.0 µg/m3 limit value applied from 1.1.2005 to 31.12.2009) n/a
Carbon monoxide (CO) 10 mg/m3 Maximum daily 8 hour mean Limit value entered into force 1.1.2005 n/a
Benzene 5 µg/m3 1 year Limit value entered into force 1.1.2010** n/a
Ozone 120 µg/m3 Maximum daily 8 hour mean Target value entered into force 1.1.2010 25 days averaged over 3 years
Arsenic (As) 6 ng/m3 1 year Target value enters into force 31.12.2012 n/a
Cadmium (Cd) 5 ng/m3 1 year Target value enters into force 31.12.2012 n/a
Nickel (Ni) 20 ng/m3 1 year Target value enters into force 31.12.2012 n/a
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons 1 ng/m3
(expressed as  concentration of Benzo(a)pyrene)
1 year Target value enters into force 31.12.2012 n/a

*Under the new Directive the member State can apply for an extension of up to five years (i.e. maximum up to 2015) in a specific zone. Request is subject to assessment by the Commission. . In such cases within the time extension period the limit value applies at the level of the limit value + maximum margin of tolerance ( 48 µg/m3 for annual NO2 limit value).

**Under the new Directive the Member State was able to apply for an extension until three years after the date of entry into force of the new Directive (i.e. May 2011) in a specific zone. Request was subject to assessment by the Commission. In such cases within the time extension period the limit value applies at the level of the limit value + maximum margin of tolerance (35 days at 75µg/m3 for daily PM10 limit value, 48 µg/m3 for annual Pm10 limit value).

***Standard introduced by the new Directive.

Under EU law a limit value is legally binding from the date it enters into force subject to any exceedances permitted by the legislation. A target value is to be attained as far as possible by the attainment date and so is less strict than a limit value.

The new Directive is introducing additional PM2.5 objectives targetting the exposure of the population to fine particles. These objectives are set at the national level and are based on the average exposure indicator (AEI).

AEI is determined as a 3-year running annual mean PM2.5 concentration averaged over the selected monitoring stations in agglomerations and larger urban areas, set in urban background locations to best assess the PM2.5 exposure to the general population.

Title Metric Averaging period Legal nature Permitted exceedences each year
Exposure concentration obligation
20 µg/m3
Based on 3 year average Legally binding in 2015 (years 2013,2014,2015) n/a
Exposure reduction target
Percentage reduction*
+ all measures to reach 18 µg/m3
Based on 3 year average Reduction to be attained where possible in 2020, determined on the basis of the value of exposure indicator in 2010 n/a

* Depending on the value of AEI in 2010, a percentage reduction requirement ( 0,10,15, or 20%) is set in the Directive. If AEI in 2010 is assessed to be over 22 µg/m3, all appropriate measures need to be taken to achieve 18 µg/m3 by 2020.


European legislation on air quality is built on certain principles. The first of these is that the Member States divide their territory into a number of zones and agglomerations. In these zones and agglomerations, the Member States should undertake assessments of air pollution levels using measurements and modelling and other empirical techniques. Where levels are elevated, the Member States should prepare an air quality plan or programme to ensure compliance with the limit value before the date when the limit value formally enters into force. In addition, information on air quality should be disseminated to the public. See more under Implementation.

EU to regulate Ultrafines in 2013

The European Union aims to begin regulation of ultrafine particles in 2013, said Andre Zuber in a keynote speech on behalf of the European Commission at the EFCA symposium in Brussels on 27 May.

The EFCA ( is the European Federation of Clear Air and Environmental Protection Associations.  The conference on “Ultrafine Particles: Sources, Effects, Risks and Mitigation Strategies” was attended by over 100 experts and governmental advisors.  State-of-the-art monitoring solutions were demonstrated by Environmental Technology Services (, including the latest monitors from Aerasense.

Several speakers drew attention to the many opportunities that will be generated by further study of ultrafine particles and pointed to links, for example, with climate change.  Until recently study has been complicated by the expense and complication of measuring equipment – factors that are much improved by a new generation of monitoring equipment including NanoTracer and NanoMonitor from Aerasense.

Mr Zuber asked the assembled scientists to assist the work of the Commission with further study and investigation as much remains to be discovered.

Environmental plan: Deadlines set, timetable unknown


Green area rates are expected to increase from 39.1 percent in 2009 to 45 percent in 2020, according to the newest version of the environmental protection plan

More than one year after it was announced, the Environmental Protection Bureau (DSPA) has come out with specific goals for the 2010/2020 Environmental Protection Plan. But, while there are precise deadlines, it seems the government has no timetable for the implementation of the plan itself.
A major new point of the plan launched yesterday for public consultation is that it includes 11 goals to be reached up until 2020. However, according to officials, it is not certain yet when the final plan will be ready.
When asked when the blueprint would be completed and ready to be put into practice, the bureau director Cheong Sio Kei provided no information. “We cannot regard this plan as a product, so we have first to take into consideration the social and economic development and improvement of residents’ quality of life [before implementing the plan,” he said, even though the plan has the timeframe of a decade, counting last year.
“We have to weigh up all aspects of today’s situation, so we will continue planning,” he said yesterday during the press conference.
The DSPA-proposed plan focuses in 15 main areas that were already featured in the first document launched in April 2010 – improving air quality and water environment, treatment and disposal of solid waste, controlling noise pollution, conservation of ecosystems and the environment, prevention and control of light pollution, radiation and environmental protection. “All these areas are a priority,” Cheong pointed out.
It includes measures for traffic and transportation, such as the introduction of eco-vehicles and limits to greenhouse gas emissions of vehicles by 2012 and setting up quick detectors of emissions in the busiest areas of the city to supervise the vehicles on the road by 2015.
To fight pollution, the DSPA wants to control emissions of smoke by restaurants and bars by 2012, as well as supervise emissions of gas and oils by gas stations. Until 2015, the bureau is expected to begin a study on strategies to reduce gas carbon emissions, to promote a low-carbon environment and to devise strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Within four years, the air quality rate should be over 98 percent and the household wastewater treatment around 97 percent, up two percent compared to 2009. Noise should be reduced by 0.2 decibel in 2012, one decibel in 2015 and 2.3 decibel in 2020.

Starting from 2015, the government will launch the centralised collection of electrical and electronic waste. Targets are set in the collection of 20 percent and 60 percent of this sort of waste by 2015 and 2020 respectively.
Energy consumption is expected to start dropping within four years. Next year, the rate of recycled waste should be 20 percent, a slightly increase of 1.4 percent.
However, by 2015, the DSPA wants to reach the 30 percent target. According to the Environmental Protection Plan, cleaner energies, such as natural gas, will account for some 25 percent of local consumption by 2015, and 35 percent by 2020.
Also in 2020, Macau will recycle 40 percent of solid waste and use four percent of the wastewater recycled in local plants. A total of five percent of special and hazardous waste will be recycled next year, 10 percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2020. Green area rates will slightly increase from 39.1 percent in 2009 to 45 percent in 2020, it adds.
With this new planning, Macau will be divided into three eco-areas, in order “to control the city’s development”.
The new plan will be up for a second round of public consultation until November 6. Afterwards, an independent consulting company will be commissioned to work on the views collected.

Cities Survey