• Wed
  • Sep 17, 2014
  • Updated: 10:33am
NewsHong Kong
AIR POLLUTION

Tell us what we don't know: Hongkongers sceptical of new AQHI

Air Quality Health Index gets sceptical reception from Hongkongers as it records 'very high' levels of pollution on launch day

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 1:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 3:31am

The government's new Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) launched yesterday to scepticism from the public - and immediately drew attention to terrible air quality for most of the city.

A free smartphone app which issues alerts on real-time air pollution levels and health risks was also launched by the Environmental Protection Department.

Some members of the public felt a new system or software application would not make much of an impact on air quality.

"The air quality in town is always bad," said Jack But, 28, who works in Causeway Bay. "I don't think the new index or app would be very helpful to me or in improving the air."

Student Joey Lam said she would consider downloading the app but questioned whether alerts would change anything.

"So people get alerts every morning, and then what? They'll probably just look at it and then forget about it," said Lam. "And what about elderly people who do not have smartphones?"

"Even if the air is visibly bad, the government always finds a way to say it's fine," schoolteacher Joe Butler said. "I live in Tung Chung so I can taste and see the bad air. I don't need an app to tell me how bad it is there."

The AQHI got up and running without a glitch yesterday morning - and it was bad news as usual in terms of overall air quality.

Pollution levels at all three roadside monitoring stations hit 10 by 6pm yesterday, meaning the risk to health was "very high".

The department officially replaced its 18-year-old Air Pollution Index (API) in hopes the new AQHI would "better communicate air pollution information to the public to alert them to take precautions as necessary".

The new index now analyses three-hour average concentrations of four major pollutants, namely ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and tiny particles (PM2.5 and PM10) using a scale from 1 to 10, and 10+.

The scale is divided into five health-risk categories - low, moderate, high, very high and serious. Daily forecasts are also issued.

At Causeway Bay yesterday, pollution reached a "very high" level of 10 at 6pm. Levels of PM10 - suspended particles that are harmful to health - hit 134 micrograms per cubic metre, more than double the highest level that the World Health Organisation considers safe.

Central and Mong Kok also hit 10 and a health alert was issued urging children, elderly people and those with heart or respiratory illnesses to "reduce to the minimum" physical exertion and activities outdoors, especially in areas of heavy traffic.

Most of the city's 12 general stations, including a new one at Tuen Mun, hovered at "moderate" health risk levels of 5 to 7 in the afternoon before deteriorating in the smoggy evening. Central/Western, Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung, Yuen Long and Tuen Mun reached 9 by 6pm.

Professor Alexis Lau Kai-hon of the University of Science and Technology said the AQHI was an improvement, but needed to offer more detail on short-term health effects of air pollution.

 

 

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This article is now closed to comments

ejmciii
Got to the top of the mountain above Stonecutter's Island Bridge around 3PM today. Could not see HK other than shades behind the mist. Could barely see TST. As climbed down looked from Tsing Yi to Lantau and could not see across the channel. And this is a holiday week. I guess our government is too busy building their float for the Tournament of Mao's 120th Birthday Parade to see the mess that is our city. Having seen the declining quality of our air, water and home, 2014 is not looking good.
superdx
Man look outside your windows, it's like we're in Beijing or Shanghai
China assimilation complete!
village2206
There was a mild sulphur odour in the air this morning around 0330 hours. I say mild but it was discernable when I went outdoors. Generally speaking its a rare occurrence at that time of the morning. If It were moist we we would undoubtedly suffer from a dose of acidic dampness. Not to worry, the Government elite live in air conditioned comfort zones and cars-- far away from the common herd!
cheechee129
It is a well recognised fact that air in Hong Kong is polluted. So the government does not have to prove it again and should not try to distract the public's attention. The launch of the new index indeed can give an accurate data to the public. But I believe that what the public looking for is a practical measure to tackle the air pollution.
Dao-Phooy
Agree this is a distraction. Not a word on how the policies to improve our air quality. Another smoggy new year ahead with no respite in sight!
cniem
Can't find the app on Google Play. Is it iOS only or HK store only? My account is USA.
superdx
@tenfon The disclaimer was probably written by law firm that had no experience drafting End User License Agreements (EULA).
The AQHI reading is supposed to be based on health risk vs. actual pollution data (API). AQHI is saying that "your health is going to be affected" and the government is saying "but it's not my problem".
I think it's something that could be reported to the ombudsman. Since these two aims are in fact not mutually exclusive. These "interpretations" of air pollution are supposed to help the citizenry, not to absolve the government of responsibility.
Kubrick
Yep, it looks like the lawyers are ensuring the government can't be held to account for the data it provides. Moreover, the new index is not going to help when it tells the "general public" that no action is needed on high pollution days. Anyway, I'm falling in the trap of being 'distracted' by the new index when the real issue is that our air is filthy and nothing tangible is being done to address this health hazard. So glad I don't have children who have to grow up in this smog.
Kubrick
I downloaded the app. It comes with an interesting set of disclaimers, including, and I paraphrase, "the government will accept no liability for any reliance on the data provided." Thus, the government gives us an app that is supposed help us make informed decisions about air pollution and then disowns the information. I've seen some sloping shoulders in my time, but this takes the award. No wonder we are getting nowhere with tackling air pollution.
tennis9090
It's not a new air quality index we want...It's new air that we need.

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