Overview of Hong Kong's Air Quality Health Index

Posted on June 3rd 2015
Share: aqicn.org/faq/2015-06-03/overview-of-hong-kongs-air-quality-health-index

Note: This the fith article of series on 'Worldwide Air Quality Scales'.

It is already a long time since the Hong Kong EPA has updated its Air Quality Index standard from the traditional Air Pollution Index to the so called Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), but we never got a change until now to have a deeper look at it, which we will do in this article.

The Hong Kong EPA has actually done an excellent work at explaining how the AQHI is defined, and the information one needs to understand the AQHI is available from their website. The most obvious simplification is the change of the traditional 0-500 index into a new simplifed 0-10+ range, sub-divded in five health risk categories, as shown below:

LOW MODERATE HIGH VERY HIGH SERIOUS
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 10+

But there is actually much more than a range simplification: the new AQHI is also introducing the very clever concept of Added Health Risk (%AR), which was originally defined, in 2007, by a team of four partners from South Africa, and first used in Canada.

Unlike the traditional AQI for which the AQI is defined as the maximum of the Individual AQIs, the AQH is defining the overall Augmented Risk (AR) as the sum of the Individual pollutants Augmented risk (IAR). The idea is, for instance, that if both ozone (O3) and particule matter (PM2.5) levels are high, then the risk for health is likely twice as big as if only particule matter level was be high. In the case of the traditional AQI scale, the AQI does not taken into account the multiple pollutant situation, i.e. the AQI is only defined as the maximum level from all pollutants.
AQHI Augmented Risk = IAR ( NO2 ) + IAR ( SO2) + IAR ( O3 ) + max( IAR ( PM2.5 ), IAR ( PM10 ) )

Traditional AQI = max( IAQI ( PM2.5 ), IAQI ( PM10 ), IAQI ( O3 ), IAQI ( NO2 ), IAQI ( SO2 ) )
The Individual pollutants Augmented risk (IAR) are based on epidemiological studies using Hong Kong's health statistics and air pollution data. They work by defining a correlation cooeficient between pollutant level and relative risks, which are measured by hospital admissions. But because graphs are quite often much easier to understand, the IAR breakpoints are plotted on the graph below:

Few interesting points are worth noticing: First this is yet another evidence of epidimiologic correlation between PM10 and PM2.5 - meaning that for countries where only PM10 is available, it it possible to deduct a PM2.5 like AQI - like we explained in this article.

Second, the highest augmented risk for equivalent concentration is the Ozone. Because the way the epidemiologicial study is done, it most likely reflects the risk due to a prolonged exposure. In other words, if compared, then it should be done with the 8 hours Ozone standard rather than the hourly standard. That can actually be a problem since we have recently updated our system to the use hourly instant cast Ozone AQI as we do believe that was is important for the citizens as a health decision is the actual concentrations, and not the one from 8 hours ago.

Last, in case one pollutant is not available, then the calculation is not possible anymore. For this reason, the AQHI is using a 3 hours rolling average, so that, when a pollutant is missing, it can be estimated as the average as the previous 2 hours. Moreover, if there is more than one hour of missing pollutnat data, then the AQHI is not reported.
oOo

So, now that the concept behind the AQHI is understood, the last step is to have a practipal comparisons of the reported values using the traditional AQI scale and the new AQHI scale, which is done in the example below using the past 15 days data from Shanghai Jing'an station (静安监测站).

For the sake of a consistent visual comparison, we introduce an intermediate color for the moderate (3-6) levels, as following:
0-3
3-4.5
4.5-6
6
7-10
10+ . The visual comparison result speaks for itself, with AQHI reporting higher levels (
) than traditional AQI (
) when several pollutants are high at the same time (most of the time Ozone and PM2.5), and AQHI reporting low
when only one pollutant is high (happens when only PM2.5 is moderate
, but all other pollutants are low
). That means that no scale is better than any other one, but each scale is having their own strong points are reporting specific pollution event.

HK AQHI Standard

US AQI Standard

US Individual AQI



oOo

As the conclusion, what is the most important is to remember as that each scale has its own specificity, and the most important is to keep the diversity in the scales: We are starting to believe that having only one unique scale might not be the right solution, and we are now working on a global solution which will allow users the select the scale which best fits their needs.


Click here to see all the FAQ entries
  • Nitrogen Dioxyde (NO2) in our atmosphere
  • Ozone AQI Scale update
  • Kriging Interpolation

  • Read or publish comments (they rely on Disqus)

    大気汚染指数の測定方法:

    大気汚染レベルについて

    指数大気質指数の分類(米国)健康影響 / カテゴリ粒子状物質(PM10,PM2.5)
    0 - 50良い - Good通常の活動が可能なし
    51 -100並 - Moderate特に敏感な者は、長時間又は激しい屋外活動の減少を検討非常に敏感な人は、長時間または激しい活動を減らすよう検討する必要がある。
    101-150敏感なグループにとっては健康に良くない - Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups心臓・肺疾患患者、高齢者及び子供は、長時間又は激しい屋外活動を減少心疾患や肺疾患を持つ人、高齢者、子供は、長時間または激しい活動を減らす必要がある。
    151-200健康に良くない - Unhealthy上記の者は、長時間又は激しい屋外活動を中止
    すべての者は、長時間又は激しい屋外活動を減少
    心疾患や肺疾患を持つ人、高齢者、子供は、長時間または激しい活動を中止する必要がある。それ以外の人でも、長時間または激しい活動を減らす必要がある。
    201-300極めて健康に良くない - Very Unhealthy上記の者は、すべての屋外活動を中止
    すべての者は、長時間又は激しい屋外活動を中止
    心疾患や肺疾患を持つ人、高齢者、子供は、全ての屋外活動を中止する必要がある。それ以外の人でも、長時間または激しい活動を中止する必要がある。
    300+危険 - Hazardous上記の者は、屋内に留まり、体力消耗を避ける
    すべての者は、屋外活動を中止
    全ての人が屋外活動を中止する必要がある。特に、心疾患や肺疾患を持つ人、高齢者、子供は、屋内に留まって激しい活動を避け静かに過ごす必要がある。
    (Reference: see wikipedia,and cn.emb-japan.go.jp/)

    大気汚染についての更なる詳細をお知りになりたい方は、WikipediaAirNowを参照してください。

    北京在住の医師Richard Saint Cyr氏による大変役に立つ健康上のアドバイスは、 www.myhealthbeijing.com をご覧ください。


    使用上の注意: すべての大気質データは公開時点では妥当性が担保されていないため、これらのデータは予告なしに修正することがあります。 世界大気質指数プロジェクトは、この情報の内容を編集に最善の注意を尽くしておりますが、いかなる状況においても World Air Quality Index プロジェクトチームまたはそのエージェントは、このデータの供給によって直接的または間接的に生じる損失や損害について責任を負いません。



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