Author: Tang Ming Chung, Kelvin, LLB IV; HKU Date: 11/8/10

The Hong Kong Council for Sustainable Development (CSD) launched a public consultation exercise in June 2007 to seek input on 3 proposed measures for improving air quality: alerts on high air pollution days (HAP days), demand side management and road pricing to reduce congestion in urban areas. (1) The idea of High Air Pollution alert days has been debated in Hong Kong, a mechanism similar to typhoon signal warnings. (1)

Forecasting approaching storms is an uncertain business, and it leads to loss of productivity and revenue. The community may therefore find it difficult to accept another general warning system (they may view it as a source of reputational damage to Hong Kong). (1) The net gains to the community will be dependent on the minimization of the impact on GDP and maximization of health protection. (1) Any labeling schemes to identify employees at high risk are likely to be stigmatizing, and may lead to prejudice and put the jobs of some at risk. (1)

It should be noted that the new WHO 24 hour guideline should not be exceeded on more than 3 days in a year. However, if we apply this criterion in Hong Kong, it would result in alerts being called on 226 up to 359 days a year. (1) And if HAP alerts keep more people indoors, power consumption may increase. (1) Staying at home is unlikely to confer on any worthwhile health benefit for the majority during a very high pollution episode. HAP alert days in Hong Kong could thus be a highly inefficient use of scarce resources. (1)

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