Air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk factor for premature deaths worldwide. Amongst the many pollutants, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is one of the biggest concerns. A large-scale joint study led by Prof. Xiang-dong Li, Dean of Faculty of Construction and Environment, has recently been supported by the Research Grants Council’s (RGC) Theme-based Research Scheme 2022/23 (Twelfth Round) with HKD 44.5 million funding.


The research project, “Unravelling the Black Box between Air Pollution and Public Health for Transformative Air Quality Management”, 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 relation to the exacerbation of two index diseases of the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and ischemic heart disease.


Furthermore, the team, comprising researchers from PolyU, City University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The University of Hong Kong and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 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. Effective, practical and cost-effective approaches to managing air quality and public health will be recommended.


“Our integrated approaches are expected to affect future studies on the chronic effects of PM2.5 and the regulation of PM2.5 in terms of its long-term effects, including lung cancer and neurodegeneration,” said Prof. Li, who is also Chair Professor of Environmental Science and Technology, Ko Jan Ming Professor in Sustainable Urban Development and Director of the Research Institute for Sustainable Urban Development.


Prof. Li’s project is one of the eight outstanding research proposals awarded funding in this round of the Theme-based Research Scheme.