Hongkongers demand accurate API

Press release - 2005-02-24
A Greenpeace commissioned opinion poll released today on Hong Kong's chronic air pollution shows that the majority of Hong Kong people think that the city's daily Air Pollution Index (API) is inaccurate. The survey also finds that over 80 per cent of people believe the air pollution problem is serious and getting worse.

Smog in Hong Kong

A Greenpeace commissioned opinion poll released today on Hong Kong's chronic air pollution shows that the majority of Hong Kong people think that the city's daily Air Pollution Index (API) is inaccurate. The survey also finds that over 80 per cent of people believe the air pollution problem is serious and getting worse.

The Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies on behalf of Greenpeace conducted the survey in early February. From the sample of 1006 interviewees, 64 per cent said an accurate and objective API would help them in understanding the truth about air quality while nearly 70 per cent urged the government to tighten Hong Kong's Air Quality Objectives (AQO), the guidelines to calculate the existing API.

"The survey shows that people need an accurate API to reference so they can plan their daily activities," said Chow Sze-chung, Greenpeace Campaigner. "But, as the air pollution problem is obviously worse, people turn to their gut feeling on air quality". In fact, over 50 per cent of the interviewees used their own judgment with only 20 per cent using the existing API when planning outdoor activities.

Chow said that the public was confused when they can see smoggy skies but the API indicates a low reading. "People seem to be abandoning the API as the gap between the truth and the index continues to widen", he said. "The SAR government must stop lying about our air quality for the sake of Hong Kong's international image - what about the people that live here, don't they matter? The inaccurate API hides the extent of the problem and blocks the urgent action needed to begin to solve it", Chow added.

Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung said recently, "There is no such thing as an international standard. If you want to have clean air, we could set that at zero. The problem with that is that you would send a message overseas that Hong Kong always has a very high API and that breathing that air is damaging".

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. 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.

Greenpeace will announce daily API readings on its website starting from 1st March as an interim reference for the public. The index will adopt the standards from WHO and EU and will be updated every hour.

Greenpeace believe it is the responsibility of the SAR government to provide accurate and objective information on air pollution and that can only be achieved by tightening the existing AQO. Greenpeace urges the Government to review and adopt stricter AQO within the current Legco term, redefining the API so that it serves as a real air quality reference for the public to rely on.

You can download a powerpoint presentation detailing the key findings of the survey here.

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