Today we are excited to formally launch our Hong Kong air pollution monitoring site, offering timely advice for residents and schools, based on live air pollution levels and globally accepted standards.
The Hong Kong AQHI is insufficient
All developed countries publish an air quality index. These indices are designed to provide advice to the general public as well as sensitive groups, enabling them to time their outdoor activities so as to minimise the health impact of poor air quality.
Unfortunately Hong Kong's air quality index, the AQHI, is not suitable for this task.
Embee recently published an article highlighting the issue:
Unlike other countries, the HK AQHI averages pollutants.The Hong Kong AQHI will read Low when PM2.5 pollution is 700% of the WHO maximum level, if gaseous pollutant levels are low.
PM2.5 is very dangerous to health by itself, leading to heart disease, strokes, cancers, COPD and other health problems. Other pollutants can be just as threatening to health - NO² for example is toxic at levels >200 μg/m³, causing significant inflammation of the airways.
The Hong Kong AQHI averages all of these, resulting in a reading that will under-represent the true risk when individual pollutant levels diverge (as they often do).
International standards provide more appropriate readings
To overcome these shortcomings, Embee takes raw hourly data from each of Hong Kong's 18 environmental monitoring stations, and generates indices and health advice based on the United States Air Quality Index (AQI) standard, adjusted to use latest PM2.5/PM10 levels to better represent quickly changing local conditions.
Air quality readings at over 1000 school locations
Additionally, using spacial interpolation and mapping techniques, we are aggregating these readings to provide Hong Kong wide pollution levels at a glance, even for areas that are not close to an existing pollution monitoring station.
Combined with the Hong Kong Geodata Store, this allows the system to produce individual air quality readings for over 1000 primary and secondary school locations.
Residents and teachers need accurate health advice
Most people are not aware of what an AQI number represents, and instead need simple, actionable advice. Although some sites publish the US AQI for Hong Kong and corresponding advice for the AQI "band", the information is generic and does not account for which pollutants are causing the poor air quality.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have produced detailed advice, broken down by individual pollutant at each concentration level, as well as advice for schools as to when it is appropriate for students to be engaged in different outdoor activities.
Embee distills this information for each school and monitoring station location, and delivers appropriate guidance based on specific pollutant concentrations at each site, with specific advice for schools:
You may find the site at the link below:
We are working to add more features, including longer historical data, mapping of additional pollutants, additional languages, notifications and more.
The Embee Team.
Embee air pollution site on data.gov.hk (en) (繁體)