The project, titled “Unravelling the Black Box between Air Pollution and Public Health for Transformative Air Quality Management”, seeks to identify the toxic components and emissions sources that contribute to the acute toxicity of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which aggravate two index diseases of the pulmonary and cardiovascular system, namely chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and ischemic heart disease.
Based on solid evidence yielded, the study will recommend effective, practical and cost-effective approaches to manage air quality and public health in Hong Kong and around the world.
Prof. Xiang-dong Li, who is also Chair Professor of Environmental Science and Technology, Ko Jan Ming Professor in Sustainable Urban Development, and Director of Research Institute for Sustainable Urban Development, said, “The completion of the planned project may lead to a revision of the Air Quality Health Index algorithm and the associated ‘Health Advice’, and a review and updates of the Air Quality Objectives in Hong Kong. The findings will also be conveyed to other national and international bodies to influence future policy formulations on air quality in different parts of the world.”
Prof. Li leads a multi-disciplinary team of over a dozen researchers from PolyU and other universities to conduct the study, several of them are advisors for the World Health Organization. The team will organise regular workshops to discuss important health issues associated with PM2.5 with potential stakeholders in expert groups.
The research team leverages latest advances in environmental toxicology and molecular epidemiology to overcome the scientific challenge of identifying the toxic components of PM2.5 and their associated sources. Through an existing PM2.5 global monitoring network, the team will select multiple cities that have distinct natural and socioeconomic conditions for the study.
The study will also consider different carbon emission reduction scenarios toward the goal of carbon neutrality, and the health benefits resulting from mitigating both air pollution and climate change.
Over the longer term, the integrated approaches established in this research could inform future studies on the chronic effect of PM2.5 on health for identifying ways to regulate its long-term effects related to lung cancer and neurodegeneration.
Prof. Li’s project is one of eight outstanding research proposals awarded in this latest round of RGC funding totalling HK$306 million.