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Hong-Kong Air Quality


In an interview with Green Inc. last week, Eva Wong, a spokeswoman from Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department, suggested that while air quality along the city’s roads can be problematic, overall air quality in Hong Kong was generally good. With no local industry, the transport sector is the main source of Hong Kong’s pollution.

But critics of the government’s measuring methods continue to argue that the department’s analysis is flawed.

“The E.P.D. continues to make comments about Hong Kong’s very high pollutant levels which are distorted, disingenuous and misleading,” said Anthony Hedley, a public health physician and chairman of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health.

The EPD is using a biased system to test air pollution in Hong Kong, in two aspects:

·          One is the coverage of the stations is not good enough

·          Another bias is the air quality objectives (AQO’s) used by the government are outdated for over 20 years.

In Hong Kong, 11 general stations and 3 roadside pollution stations test air quality. But these are not enough nor a valid basis on which to base a proper assessment of Hong Kong’s air quality:

  •  Firstly, because Hong Kong has 18 districts, and yet there are only 14 stations, and the coverage of the stations is not good enough to reflect the accurate situation of Hong Kong air pollution.

From the Mobile Air-monitoring Platform (MAP) from University of Science and Technology, it is clear that even the air pollution in the same district in which there is one of the stations is at variance to the EPD’s readings.

Ex. In Des Voeux Road in Central, the MAP records a higher pollution standard than the main station of EPD. It’s the same situation in other main street of different districts such as King’s Road…

Therefore, the coverage of the stations is not good enough to let the people know the whole picture of air quality in Hong Kong.

  •   Secondly, there is a bias in respect of the pollution objectives of the EPD, which are now considerably outdated.

Joanne Ooi, the chief executive of the Clean Air Network, a local environmental group, and a marketing officer with Filligent, a company that has developed an antipollution mask, points out that Hong Kong’s air quality guidelines have not been revised since 1987.

Indeed, in the NYT’s article, the EPD mentioned that “Our Air Pollution Index (A.P.I.) system makes reference to Hong Kong’s current Air Quality Objectives (A.Q.O.’s)”. However, Hong Kong’s current Air Quality Objectives have not updated since 1987! What the EDP is really saying, therefore, is that” For the whole in 2009, the A.P.I. level breached the 100 mark 7 to 13 percent of the time at each of our three roadside air-quality monitoring stations.”, based on standards set in 1987 when not only traffic volumes and conditions were considerably different than those of today, but also today’s Hong Kong is a very different place.  In 1987 there were nothing like as many skyscrapers and high-rise buildings as there are today, and this has further exacerbated Hong Kong’s air pollution problems by the “chasm effect” of trapped roadside polluted air.

As the data collected by the EPD does not effectively state the real position, we need to look at all the other data, and which has been collected by academic experts in this field by one of Hong Kong’s leading universities, in order to judge whether the air quality in Hong Kong is dangerous or not.

But Sarath Guttikunda, the founder of, a Web site that informs the South Asian public about pollution issues, believes that the E.P.D.’s statements are helpful, in that they put the spotlight on Hong Kong’s transport sector.

The data collected by MAP of 12 busy locations in Hong Kong, who used the WHO standard as well in their analysis of the data, is very relevant and really tells a much more accurate story of the reality of road side pollution in Hong Kong than the data that the EPD chooses to rely on.

However, it is hardly surprising that the EPD does not make any reference to this new data as in 6 of these locations the readings even exceed Hong Kong’s grossly outdated A.Q.O. standard, and in 10 of them, the readings reach the dangerous level when one compares the data with the WHO standard. So there really should now be no question as to whether the ambient pollution levels are reaching life threatening levels.

The data is there plain and simple for all to see. The sad fact remains, however, that the EPD not only refuses to recognize that, but still seeks to portray a picture to the public of Hong Kong, and, indeed, to the world at large, that Hong Kong’s air is safe and at acceptable levels.

According to Dr. Hedley, although high pollution days certainly hit the headlines, it is the high average levels that are most harmful.

                “In the case of air pollution and protecting public health, comparisons between nations are less important than assessment of standards based on the latest medical research,” said Ms. Ooi.

The present air-quality regulations in Hong Kong, Ms. Ooi argued, “permit 1,100 avoidable deaths per year.”

Ms. Ooi maintained that in 2006, Hong Kong’s air was three times more polluted than that of New York and twice as polluted as Singapore.

To conclude, the Data collected by EPD, in order to test the air pollution in Hong-Kong, does not state effectively the real position since it refers to Hong Kong’s current Air Quality Objectives which has not been updated since 1987. To measure air quality more precisely, the government should work more closely with universities since the data collected by MAP appears more relevant than those collected by the EPD.



xin_2203043016561132251874Source: The New York Times,



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