Environmental issues have become the main concern of the public, but general ignorance about the problems and a lack of action make environmental protection a daunting task on the mainland, a landmark study shows. The China Environmental Culture Promotion Association, an agency overseen by the State Environment Protection Administration, yesterday released the results of the nation's first public environmental lifestyle index, based on a survey of 4,500 people nationwide. In a significant departure from previous research, more than 40 per cent of those surveyed identified the environment as the issue of greatest concern, particularly in relation to food safety, the report said. More than 80 per cent of people thought food contamination was an imminent environmental threat, and there was a similar level of concern about the dangers of water and air pollution. But the hole in the ozone layer and global warming were low on the public's list of concerns, the study found. Yu Jianwei , one of the researchers on the project, said the study revealed that when people were more informed about the environment, their satisfaction with present conditions dropped, and their participation in conservation activities increased. Mr Yu said people also worried more about threats in their immediate surroundings, such as pollutants from household interiors and garbage in residential compounds, than wider public dangers. 'Our study strongly suggests the government should work harder to increase environmental awareness,' he said. The study also said that while more than 60 per cent of respondents thought Beijing was treating environmental issues seriously, only 16 per cent would be prepared to complain if necessary.