Air pollution

Key Facts about Air Pollution In Hong Kong

Yoki Ho

If you were asked to explain the following questions, how would you answer?

1. How bad is the air pollution in Hong Kong?
2. What can be done about it?

Read till the end of this article will definitely help you level up your response (in case the above scenario happens!)

The 6 major pollutants in Hong Kong

  1. Sulfur dioxide
  2. Nitrogen oxides
  3. Carbon monoxide
  4. Ozone
  5. PM10 and PM2.5 respirable fine particles
  6. Hydrocarbons

Motor cars, maritime vessels, and power plants, according to David Ho, Assistant Director of the Air Policy Division of the government’s Environmental Protection Department (EPD), are the primary contributors of these six categories of air pollutants in Hong Kong. Diesel vehicles, particularly buses and trucks, are the primary polluters on city streets.

Health implications of poor air quality

The CEO of the Clean Air Network (CAN), Patrick Fung, spoke about the list of studies finding alarming complications associated with air pollution in children, including adverse birth outcomes, infant mortality, neurodevelopment, child obesity and asthma – just to name a few. Dr. Marco Ho, a former deputy chief executive at Queen Mary Hospital and an allergy specialist in pediatric immunology and infectious diseases, as well as vulnerable groups like those with pre-existing heart and lung difficulties, smokers, youngsters, and the elderly, backed up this claim. These people are at risk of health problems, particularly from PM2.5 microparticles that can deposit in the inner airways, resulting in higher hospital visits during bad air quality episodes. The 2006 Civic Exchange Report, undertaken by HKUST and CUHK, estimated that air pollution caused 6.8 million family doctor visits for respiratory ailments, 64,000 hospital bed-days, and 1,600 premature deaths in Hong Kong each year.

Variation in air quality indexes

Websites exhibit varying levels of severity or health risk in relation to air quality based on sensor data interpretation. This is because, despite the fact that the basic measurement system used around the world is generally similar, there is no uniform air quality information system (all sensors are basically the same). The EPD, for example, collects data from monitors and makes it available to the public via the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), which is based on a link between pollutant concentrations and hospital admissions, and the algorithm’s weighting tends to favor ozone. This indicates that the AQHI is a comparison between air quality measurements and Hong Kong’s short-term public hospital visits. To evaluate the public health risk posed by present air quality levels, different countries or organizations may utilize different sets of comparisons. Because of the rise in short-term health risks associated to ozone’s presence in the air, ozone is a crucial consideration for the AQI in Hong Kong. This could also explain why HKUST’s PRAISE-HK, a mobile app that allows users to receive real-time air quality information within 2-meters and predicts air quality 48 hours ahead of time using weather and pollutant data modeling, can provide users with a different set of data. Michelle Wong, the project’s senior communications manager, noted that they use data from the EPD as well as data from their own sensors to construct a predictive model for air quality within a two-metre radius of the user. The app provides modelled data that has been confirmed by government sensors rather than data that has been directly taken from sensors, which is a crucial distinction.

All in all, more of the members of our society have realised the severity of air pollution control in Hong Kong. There are some improvements in terms of public awareness and government measures to protect the air quality, but there is still more to be done. Let us work together to bring back the clean air in Hong Kong!