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Basics of air pollution

What is air pollution?

Air Pollution is a complex mixture of gases and particles that are formed from burning fuels and other materials or photochemical reactions in the atmosphere.

Pollutants that are emitted directly into the air are called primary pollutants and they come from different sources:

Mobile sources like cars, trucks, boats and planes

Stationary sources like homes, power plants and factories which used polluting fuels and outdated technology

Natural sources like wildfires and volcanoes

Secondary pollutants are a bit more complex than primary pollutants and are formed as a result of primary pollutants reacting with the molecules in the atmosphere such as molecular oxygen, water and hydrocarbons. Both primary and secondary pollutants can be transported to great distances from their original source by daily and seasonal wind patterns.

Types of air pollutants

Some of the major air pollutants that are harmful to our health are shown below

Hong Kong's air

How bad is Hong Kong's air?

Air pollution in Hong Kong is considered a serious matter. Haze is often seen hanging over the city and can last for many days depending on the direction of the wind. As of the year 2020 the PM2.5 levels of Hong Kong was almost double than that of WHO safe levels but due to more stringent WHO levels as of 2021 Hong Kong’s air quality is far behind.The World Health Organization,(WHO) recommends PM2.5 levels to be no higher than 5 µg/m3 as per WHO’s new air quality guidelines. ‘

Despite the significant improvement in air quality, at both ambient and roadside levels, between 2013 and 2017 as the Hong Kong Government implemented vigorous emission control schemes, Hong Kong’s air quality is still far from satisfactory.

Hong Kong is falling behind major international cities, like London, Singapore, New York, Tokyo, in terms of annual average of particulate matters (PM2.5) level. The nitrogen dioxide levels at roadside are still doubling the safe level recommended by World Health Organisation. Global studies show that these air pollutants are causing cancer, respiratory diseases and circulatory diseases, which consequently, jeopardising the well-being of Hong Kong citizens.

What causes air pollution in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong has been facing two air pollution issues, namely local street-level pollution and regional smog problem.Commercial vehicles are the main source of street-level pollution. Let us look into some of the sources in more details.

How will air pollution affect Hong Kong?

How can we improve Hong Kong air quality?

What you can do at home?

Improve the energy consumption:

  • Reduce energy consumption at home. By switching off fans, air-conditioners and lights when you don’t need them and keeping the air-conditioned temperature at 25.5 degree Celsius in summer, you will save energy and money, and reduce air pollution from power stations.
  • Choose energy efficient appliances and look for the Energy Label when purchasing these products.
  • Use of fans instead of Air Conditioner.

Improve the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ):

  • We spend more than 70% of our time at homes, offices and other indoor environment. Below are some easy tips to follow to improve IAQ.
  • Maintain adequate air ventilation by opening windows.
  • Clean the filters of air conditioners at regular intervals.
  • Dispose of perishable food properly to avoid odours.
  • Remove and clean visible moulds once they are found.

What you can do while commuting?

Greener Transportation:

  • Planning your route ahead of time will help you find easier ways around traffic congestion – you will save time during your journey and reduce fuel/electricity consumption.
  • Use public transportation as often as possible – the wide availability of trains, buses, minibuses and ferries in Hong Kong means that most areas can be reached without much expense.

What you can do in school?

Apart from home, you can still do much in school to solve air pollution in Hong Kong.

Clean Air School Action Plan

Interesting facts of Hong Kong’s air

The topic of air pollution in Hong Kong is very interesting. Here are some quick paraphrased versions of various other subtopics:
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