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Green Group Seeks New Air Quality Standards
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To combat air pollution, a local green group yesterday urged the government to revise the air quality objectives (AQOs) Hong Kong uses today.


Friends of the Earth (FoE) (HK) proposed yesterday that the government should adopt the latest suggestions on the AQOs by the World Health Organization (WHO), which will be announced next month.


In a petition to the Environmental Protection Department yesterday (EPD), the FoE pointed out that the current AQOs in Hong Kong had not been revised for the last 20 years.


Han Chu, environmental affairs officer of FoE, noted that the AQOs in Hong Kong lagged way behind the WHO-proposed standards or other cities in Asia.


"WHO's proposed limit in 2005 on Particulates (PM10) is 50ug (24 hour standard). The limit in Hong Kong is 180ug, which is even higher than the 150 in the Chinese mainland and Macao," said Chu.


The Hong Kong government, however, has no plan yet to revise its AQOs until 2009.


"It is certainly putting public health at risk since the outdated measures can't reflect the pollution in Hong Kong at all," said Edwin Lau, FoE director.


Lau added that according to the group's knowledge, the Chief Executive has not yet finished the section on environmental protection in his upcoming Policy Address.


The group hopes to bring public attention to the issue and urges the government to tighten the limits on PM10 to 150ug and, in the long run, adopt WHO suggested AQOs.


In response to FoE's proposal, a spokesperson from EPD said that it had announced its plan in July to conduct a comprehensive study to support the review of Hong Kong's AQOs.


The Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) also held a public forum last Monday to consult public views on how the AQOs should be reviewed.


"We plan to commission the study in early 2007. The study will take about 18 months to complete by the third quarter of 2008. It will examine findings of the reviews currently taken in EU, which are expected to be available by the end of 2007. We plan to launch a public engagement process to finalize action on the new AQOs and the required long-term strategy on air quality in the review," the spokesperson said.


(China Daily September 30, 2006)

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