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Greens Urge Pollution Shake-Up

Joyce Ng – Updated on Sep 12, 2008

Greens have urged the government to step up the tightening of air-quality measuring standards – along international guidelines – after records in the past two months show air quality remains unsatisfactory.

The administration said it had been carrying out a review and would finalise the new measuring standards next year.

Three Greenpeace members yesterday climbed to the top of an air-monitoring station in Central and unveiled banners urging the government to revise its standards to reflect those introduced by the World Health Organisation in 2006.

The group found that in the past two months there had been 44 days when at least one monitoring station had recorded 24-hour-average concentrations of particulate matter that exceeded the WHO standards.

On one day in August, concentrations surpassed WHO standards in all but one of the 14 monitoring stations. In Causeway Bay, the measurement was 1.86 times the standard, but the official index classified the area as only having a “medium to high” level of pollution.

“The government standard, established in 1987, is too loose and outdated, failing to reflect the truth and protect our health,” Greenpeace campaigner Prentice Koo Wai-muk said.

Mr Koo urged the government to monitor minute particulates, known as PM-2.5, which research suggests can penetrate deep into human lungs and have more severe health effects than larger particulates.

In June last year, the Environmental Protection Department commissioned a study to review the air- quality objectives and develop a long-term management strategy.

A spokesman said the study was expected to be completed by the end of this year, after which the department would launch a public consultation and finalise the standards. The study would make reference to the WHO guidelines.

The existing index is calculated with reference to seven pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, respirable suspended particulates, carbon monoxide and ozone.

The WHO has recommended interim targets for governments to meet the more stringent standards progressively.

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