Greenpeace sends Secretary gas mask Mocks low air pollution standard

Press release - 2008-11-26
Greenpeace activists presented a gas mask to Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau today to mock him of risking Hong Kong citizen’s lives and health by refusing to review the Air Quality Objective (AQO) according to World Health Organization’s (WHO) ultimate targets. Greenpeace questioned the Secretary on the spot for an explanation to the authority’s decision, but the Secretary denied that the proposed standards are too low. He refuses to commit adopting the most stringent air quality standards nor a plan with clear timetable.

Greenpeace activists presented a gas mask to Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau today to mock him of risking Hong Kong citizen’s lives and health by refusing to review the Air Quality Objective (AQO).

While the Secretary is on his way to the Legislative Council motion debate on “Formulating a Roadmap for a Low Carbon Economy”, four green activists dress up in full protective uniforms, they hand with containers filled with “poison air”, protest the government’s reluctance to adopt WHO’s ultimate targets and make the air of Hong Kong too “poisonous” for breathing.

The government proposes to review the AQO by using the lowest standards of the WHO, which however, implies a death risk 15% higher than its ultimate targets. Since September 2008, nearly 4,500 members of the public have joined Greenpeace’s online petition pledging the government to revise AQO according to the strictest air quality levels set by WHO.

Greenpeace Campaigner Prentice Koo criticized that, “The Air Quality Objectives (AQO) was devised 21 years ago, Edward Yau is now jeopardizing the health of HK citizens. The government should aim for a work plan and timeline which allows Hong Kong to meet the ultimate WHO standards, to truly protect the health of the public.”

Research in the past showed that at least 1600 lives were claimed every year because of air pollution. A study by the Hong Kong Thoracic Society points out recently as well that respiratory disease is the number one killer in Hong Kong. The disease is the major reason for hospital care which causes 1 out of 3.5 deaths and 1 out of 6 patients which need to stay in the hospital.

Chairman of the Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs Audrey EU Yuet-mee also feels dissatisfied, she says “ Being one of the major cause of death, government should adopt the most stringent air quality levels set by WHO when assessing Hong Kong air quality. The Air Quality Objectives should be set for the benefit of public healthcare.”

Greenpeace criticizes a new air standard with a high death risk as ridiculous. The green group demands the government to take WHO’s ultimate air quality standards and formulate a clear timetable and work plan to achieve the objectives.

Appendix:

Table 1

WHO air quality guidelines and interim targets for particulate matter: annual mean concentration

PM10(μg/m3)



PM2.5 (μg/m3)

Basis for the selected level

Interim target-1 (IT-1)

70

35

These levels are associated with about a 15% higher long-term mortality risk relative to the AQG level.

Interim target-2 (IT-2)

50

25

In addition to other health benefits, these levels lower the risk of premature mortality by approximately 6% [2–11%] relative to theIT-1 level.

Interim target-3 (IT-3)

30

15

In addition to other health benefits, these levels reduce the mortality risk by approximately 6% [2-11%] relative to the -IT-2 level.

Air quality guideline (AQG)

20

10

These are the lowest levels at which total, cardiopul­monary and lung cancer mortality have been shown to increase with more than 95% confidence in response to long-term exposure to PM2.5.

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