Air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk factor for premature deaths worldwide. Among all air pollutants, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is one of the deadliest. Since PM2.5 is a cocktail of components from a mix of sources and not all components or sources are equally toxic, research on the toxic components and their associated sources responsible for PM2.5 health effects plays a key part in air quality management.
The project, titled “Unravelling the Black Box between Air Pollution and Public Health for Transformative Air Quality Management”, is co-led by
Prof. Xiang-dong Li, Dean of Faculty of Construction and Environment (FCE), Director of Research Institute for Sustainable Urban Development (RISUD), Chair Professor of Environmental Science and Technology; and Prof. Ko Jan Ming, Professor in Sustainable Urban Development. It has been awarded HK$44.5 million worth of funding by the Research Grants Council (RGC) Theme-based Research Scheme (TRS) 2022/23 (Twelfth Round).
As the project coordinator, Prof. Li will lead a multi-disciplinary team of 10 researchers from PolyU, CityU, CUHK, HKU and HKUST. The project is expected to generate solid evidence of key PM2.5 toxic components and emission sources that contribute to the acute toxicity of PM2.5, particularly in the exacerbation of two index diseases of the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and ischemic heart disease (IHD).
Furthermore, the research team will evaluate the benefits and costs of their proposed strategy of targeting the sources of PM2.5 toxic constituents against the conventional approach targeting total mass concentrations when formulating air quality management policies. Effective, practical, and economical approaches to managing air quality and public health will be recommended. For example, the completion of the current project may lead to 1) a revision of the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) algorithm and the associated “Health Advice”; and 2) a review and update of the Air Quality Objectives (AQO) in Hong Kong. The experience in Hong Kong may also serve as a case model for the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and ultimately for the global community.