Outdated Air Quality index hides the awful truth about Hong Kong smog

Press release - 2004-10-20
Greenpeace today announced that it will begin measuring Hong Kong air quality using the international standard World Health Organisation (WHO) and EU system from tomorrow for the next ten days. The findings will be announced on 1st November in comparison with the current loose and outdated Hong Kong standard.

Smog in Hong Kong

"This is to show how the existing Air Quality Objectives (AQO) act as a 'smokescreen to hide the urgency of action needed to solve the critical air pollution situation in Hong Kong. Our AQO is outdated and loose and serves only to deceive the public", said Edward Chan, Assistant Campaigner of Greenpeace. "For example, at 9 a.m. today the Air Pollution Index (API) for Causeway Bay, which is calculated based on the AQO, was 91. Using the WHO standard, the index should be 314", added Chan.

Hong Kong's AQO were implemented in 1987 and no review has been undertaken for nearly 20 years. Town planning, environmental assessments and daily API announcements all use AQO as a guideline.

"The EU reviewed its AQO in 1999 with another review due later this year. The WHO reviewed its standard in 2000, which has been adopted by Singapore. Why doesn't the Hong Kong Government understand the urgency of tightening our standard?" Chan said.

Air pollutants measured by the AQO include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and respirable suspended particulates (RSPs). The acceptable level of RSPs in Hong Kong is 3.6 times the EU standard, while sulphur dioxide is 2.3 to 2.8 times and nitrogen dioxide is double.

The SAR Government signed the Regional Air Quality Management Plan with the Guangdong Provincial Government in 2002. The Plan also uses the 1987 standard as the guideline for projecting air quality in the region by 2010. "Unless Hong Kong uses the WHO and EU system, by 2010 the smog will be so bad that we won't be able to see the AQI in the newspaper let alone breathe clean air", Chan said.

Greenpeace urges the Government to immediately review and adopt stricter AQO, redefining the API so that it serves as a real air quality reference for the public to rely on. Greenpeace also demand that the Government implement tighter regulations to control the major causes of bad air quality including cutting emissions from our coal burning power plants and from other local polluters.