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High Pollution Again

—–Original Message—–
From: []
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 15:18
To: Hotmail
Cc: Edwin Town; Christian Masset;; James Middleton;
Subject: High Pollution Again

Dear Mr. Furner,

Thanks for your email and suggestions on 29 May.

As said last time, the mass media receives hourly updates of the API
information through the Information Service Department. It is their standing
practice to report APIs at regular intervals.  The ‘very high’ level API
incident on 28 and 29 May was reported by various TV and radio stations as
well as newspapers. The MTR also displays API information at the message
boards at the entrances of their stations.

Regarding your proposal to install a large API display panel at the Central
air quality monitoring station (AQMS), please note that we consulted
relevant departments on a similar suggestion made by the Central & Western
District Council back in 2000. The Transport Department did not support the
proposal because the proposed display might cause pedestrian congestion at
the spot and was not desirable from traffic engineering point of view at a
busy street like that. In addition, the EMSD advised that there was no space
to accommodate the additional display at the Central AQMS. The proposed
project could not proceed because of the technical constraints in
installation, ongoing maintenance and safety concerns.

The suggestion to consider imposing selective vehicle restrictions on high
air pollution days at hotspots has been raised by the Council for
Sustainable Development in October 2008. It was found that such proposal had
not been applied in any overseas jurisdictions. Major implementation and
enforcement details, such as when to trigger the restriction, how much
advance notice be given to vehicle users, and how long such restriction
should be made, are exceedingly complex. You may like to know that we are
working to set up “pilot low emission zones” in busy districts such as
Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok, which would restrict the entry of
high-emission franchised buses.  We will increase as far as possible the
ratio of low-emission buses (i.e. those meeting the emission level of a Euro
IV or above bus) running in these zones from 2011, with the target of having
only low-emission buses in these zones by 2015 the latest.

Regarding the circular issued by Education Bureau (EDB), EDB has advised
that upon receiving EPD’s notification of the API at very high level in the
early morning of a school day, the EDB would immediately send a message to
schools alerting them to the very high API and to take the necessary
precautionary measures as advised in the relevant EDB Circular.  The
circular also advises schools to check against the API level at EPD’s

According to the EDB, almost all PE teachers in Hong Kong are trained
professionals.  They are able to make judgment on the suitable exercise
intensity for students without existing heart or respiratory illnesses with
reference to potential health implications as advised by EPD and the actual
air condition of the activity area, e.g. “very high”.   Sedentary lifestyle
is harmful to health, especially for students who are in the stage of active
physical development.  So EDB treasures all opportunities to promote active
and healthy style among students and encourage teachers to maximise the PE
learning time.  If there is proved evidence that it is not suitable for
students in normal health condition to have physical activities in a certain
API level, EDB will take the advice for the sake of students’
health and modify the learning content and strategies.

The API review study by the leading academics (including public health
experts and an atmospheric scientist) is in progress.  We will make public
its findings when ready.

As to your request for the provision of long-term air pollutant data, please
note that the data provided on “past 24 Hours Pollutant Concentration” web
page are provisional real-time data for calculating API.
These provisional data will have to be validated according to EPD’s quality
control and quality assurance procedures similar to the practices adopted in
the USA. The validation is to ensure the quality of the data. The data
validation process usually takes a few months. After validation, we’ll
upload all the data to EPD’s web site at the following link for public reference. Please feel
free to browse and download the air quality data you are interested.

You also asked about the emission data for power plants.  As power
generation is the biggest source of air pollution in Hong Kong, other than
imposing very stringent emission control requirements and emission caps, we
have required the power companies in the licences to install continuous
emission monitoring system at the stacks for real-time monitoring of their
emissions of major air pollutants and transmit the data to our office
through telemetry to ensure the emissions are fully complied with the
emission limits.  The data so collected are solely for enforcement purposes
and will not be further released to third parties.

To facilitate the public to get access to the emission performance
information of the power plants, we have required the two power companies to
post their emission quantities after data validation and auditing on a
quarterly basis at the following websites-


You may like to know that the power companies have already completed the
retrofitting of their major coal-fired generation units with emission
reduction facilities and increased the use of natural gas for electricity
generation for complying with the emission caps requirements imposed in the
licences.  With all these measures, the 2010 annual emissions from the power
sector of SO2, NOx and RSP have been reduced by 62%, 29% and 34%
respectively from the 2009 levels. Please be rest assured that we would
closely monitor the emissions from the power stations of both power
companies.  Should we observe any non-compliance with the emission limits,
we will take enforcement actions under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance
as appropriate.


WM Pun
Air Science Group

29/05/2011 12:41       , Christian
James Middleton
Edwin Town
Re: High Pollution Again

Mr Pun

It is yet another weekend of unacceptable pollution with API levels at High
to Very High across all areas of Hong Kong with the maximum RSP API level at
time of writing being 191 (approx 3 times higher than allowed by the World
Health Organisation).

It is quite surprising that your response says the government are making
active attempts to provide information through the mass media.
I have just returned home from Central this morning and noted that your
website indicates “Very High” levels of pollution in this location. The bad
thing is I did not see any active advertising of this API information
anywhere in the Central Area or hear any meaningful warnings being given via
radio and TV highlighting the health warnings associated with these API

There are also no displays or billboards posted around Hong Kong warning the
public of the API levels or the dangers of being exposed to high levels of
pollution. Why are the government not advertising these facts in the public
eye? The people have a right to know of the risks they are unknowingly
exposing themselves too.

My request is that the Government/EPD take immediate responsibility and make
sure that any pollution day which reaches High or above should be

1. Regularly Advertised on TV with associated health warnings provided (eg
News Flashes) 2. Regularly Advertised on Radio with associated health
warnings provided.
3. Consistently Advertising API levels with health warnings on Electronic
BillBoards setup around HK.
4. Advertised in MTR with associated health warnings provided.
5. Introducing limitations on traffic numbers in hotspots such as Central,
MongKok and Causeway Bay ie not allowed to drive.

I would also like to request that the Air Monitoring Station in Central be
equipped with a large digital display screen on top of the station to alert
people of API pollution levels along with associated health warnings and how
many days in a year they have been exposed to High API levels and above. I
am happy to donate this Digital Display myself.

In terms of the Air Pollution Circular for the schools you mention that you
inform the EDB who will then subsequently inform all schools within Hong
Kong. There are many, many schools in Hong Kong and this would take alot of
effort to coordinate in a timely and effective manner so what emergency
procedures have the EDB put in place to be able to call these schools? How
often does the government test the school’s procedures and processes and
when was the last time an emergency drill was performed?

The circular also states that the children can exercise at the “Very High”
pollution level albeit at the discretion of the Gym Teacher to moderate the
intensity. Discretion of a teacher doesn’t protect our children. Exercising
in these conditions, no matter what the intensity, still leave healthy
children open to the dangers that are inherent with the levels of pollution
Hong Kong has.

I would ask that you place a “School No Exercise” warning on the front page
of your EPD website so that worried parents can make regular checks and
follow up with the school and take a decision as to whether I want my
children to exercise in High pollution levels and above. In addition the
government should stop all exercise in these High or above conditions. There
is not one medical community that promotes the idea of healthiness of
exercising in these horrible conditions!

In regards to the leading academics doing a study, that you mention below,
how long will it take and when will the findings be published?

Two last requests –

1. Can you please provide long term figures for all pollutants on your
website?. Currently your site only publishes the “Past 24 Hours Pollutant
Concentration”. It would be nice if you supply at least the last 10 years
worth of data so the public can track individual pollutant levels over time.

2. Can you pls provide on your website the telemettry data on the pollution
levels coming from the power stations and chimneys around Hong Kong for all
to see.

I look forward to your responses on these questions and suggestions.

Many Thanks


Tim Furner

On 18 May 2011, at 4:45 PM, wrote:

> Dear Mr. Furner,
> Thanks for your mail of 16 May 2011.
> We noted that the Air Pollution Index (API) recorded on 16 May 2011
> were in the range of 31 (Tung Chung) to 71 (Kwun Tong) for general
> stations and 62 (Causeway Bay) to 99 (Central) for roadside stations
> with respective culprit pollutants of respirable suspended
> particulates and nitrogen dioxide most of the time.
> The API is updated hourly in EPD’s web page and an interactive voice
> recording system at 2827 8541. You may find API updates and its
> relevant background and health implications in EPD’s web page at <>.  EPD also issues the current
> API report to the mass media through the Information Services
> Department
> (ISD)
> at hourly level. We understand that quite a number of the mass media
> such as the radio and TV stations report the APIs at regular
> intervals.
> It is a standing practice that when the general/roadside API exceeds
> or is forecasted to exceed 100 during school days, EPD will inform the
> Education Bureau (EDB). EDB will  subsequently advise the schools of
> the API exceedance.  EDB has issued School Circular No. 9/2010 “Air
> Pollution Index” to provide schools with guidelines when air pollution
> reaches very high or severe level.
> To further improve the API system, we have already commissioned a team
> of leading academics including health experts and air scientists from
> the local universities to review our API system for providing more
> timely information to the public on the level of air pollution and the
> associated health effects.  The recommendations of the study will help
> us decide on how to improve the API system to better communicate air
> quality information to the public.
> Regards.
> WM Pun
> Air Science Group

>             Hotmail
>             <>
>     To
>                                    ,
>             16/05/2011
> Subject
>                                              High Pollution Again
>      EPD,
>      It was another High pollution day across the majority of the SAR
>      (16th May 2011). Roadside Pollution levels across Central were
> more
>      than double WHO limits and general levels in other regions
> alarmingly
>      high also. it is very worrying that there is currently no alarm
>      signal in place to inform the general public of such dangerous
> levels
>      of pollution. What procedures do the government have for
> annoucing
>      these high pollution days through TV, radio broadcasts, MTR
>      messageboards, school and employer announcements? It is vitally
>      important that the public are made aware as early as possible
> through
>      as many communication forums as possible.
>      In regards to school there appears to be no advance warning
> mechanism
>      in place to warn schools to prevent children exercising in these
>      conditions. What are the government doing to communicate with the
>      school governing bodies directly to insure exercise classes are
>      quickly restricted to indoors only? I was very concerned to hear
> my
>      child was out running a cross country at school in these
> conditions.
>      I look forward to your early response.
>      Regards
>      Tim Furner
>      Clear The Air
>      Communications

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