According to HKU’s Hedley Index, over 10,000 premature deaths were caused by air pollution in Hong Kong in the past 5 years. The Hong Kong Air Quality Objectives (AQO) are far too loose compared to the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines (WHOAQGs), meaning they are insufficient in safeguarding public health. Still, the government proposes to greatly increase the number of allowable exceedances for air pollutant, PM2.5, from 9 times to 35 times a year.
The reason behind the exceedance proposal is that the government estimated the level of PM2.5 would exceed the proposed AQO for 33 times in 2025. The proposal clearly places technical feasibility first and ignores the importance of public health. As research in 2011 done by the University of Hong Kong has shown that population in Hong Kong would be exposed to an additional 24% health risk every year if the government were allowed to increase the number of exceedances. More importantly, the proposal to increase the number of allowable exceedance for air pollutants does not fulfill Air Pollution Control Ordinance’s major objective, which is to “abate, prohibit and control pollution of the atmosphere”.
Besides, the government shows low willingness to combat air pollution by not proposing to tighten the AQOs for the two pollutants, PM10 and ozone, even though the concentration levels of the two pollutants are expected to increase in the future.
We urge the government to:
1. Withdraw the proposal to increase PM2.5’s number of allowable exceedances to 35 times
2. Tighten the AQOs for PM10 and ozone
3. Tighten the AQOs to WHOAQGs as soon as possible