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)

    대기질 및 환경 오염 측정에 관하여 :

    대기질 지수 단계에 대하여

    AQI지수구분구간의미
    0 - 50좋음대기오염 관련 질환자군에서도 영향이 유발되지 않을 수준
    51 -100보통환자군에게 만성 노출시 경미한 영향이 유발될 수 있는 수준
    101-150민감군영향환자군 및 민감군에게 유해한 영향이 유발될 수 있는 수준
    151-200나쁨환자군 및 민감군(어린이, 노약자 등)에게 유해한 영향 유발, 일반인도 건강상 불쾌감을 경험할 수 있는 수준
    201-300매우나쁨환자군 및 민감군에게 급성 노출시 심각한 영향 유발, 일반인도 약한 영향이 유발될 수 있는 수준
    300+위험환자군 및 민감군에게 응급 조치가 발생되거나, 일반인에게 유해한 영향이 유발될 수 있는 수준
    (Reference: see airkorea.or.kr)

    대기질과 오염에 대해 더 많은 것을 알아보려면 위키피디아의 대기질 문서(영어)을 보거나 대기질과 건강에 대한 AirNow 가이드(영어)를 참조해보세요.

    매우 유용한 베이징의 의학박사 Richard Saint Cyr MD의 건강 관련 팁을 보려면 www.myhealthbeijing.com 의 블로그를 확인하세요.


    사용안내: 모든 대기 질 데이터는 발행 당시에 검증되지 않았으며, 품질 보증으로 인해 이러한 데이터는 예고없이 언제든지 수정 될 수 있습니다. 세계 대기 품질 지수 프로젝트는이 정보의 내용을 편집함에있어 합당한 기술과 관심을 행사했으며 어떤 상황에서도 세계 대기 품질 지수 (World Air Quality Index) 프로젝트 팀 또는 그 대리인은이 데이터의 공급으로 인해 직접 또는 간접적으로 발생하는 손실, 상해 또는 손해에 대해 계약, 불법 행위 또는 기타의 책임을지지 않습니다.



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    Temperature unit:
    Celcius