News that fumes raise cancer risk means officials should clean up and reduce diesel fleet, groups say
Lobby groups say that the government should reduce the number of diesel-powered vehicles on Hong Kong roads, as well as tighten emission standards for remaining vehicles, in order to protect pedestrians, now that the WHO has classified diesel exhaust as a carcinogen.
The WHO recently announced that breathing in diesel exhaust fumes increases the risk of lung and bladder cancer.
About 130,000 diesel vehicles were registered in Hong Kong at the end of March. Clean Air Network and Civic Exchange claim that the government has been too slow in tightening environmental standards for these vehicles.
CAN said the WHO’s decision emphasized the need for the government to implement policies that encourage cleaner fuel. According to CAN, “more than 80 per cent of diesel vehicles have engines that meet the emissions standards in force in the EU before the year 2000. These pre-Euro-IV standard vehicles account for most of the city’s emissions of two key pollutants, being responsible for 88 per cent of pollutant particles in the air and 76 per cent of nitrogen oxide.”
In the European Union, increasingly tougher vehicle emission standards have been implemented since 1992. The Euro V standard for buses and trucks was implemented in 2008 and the Euro VI standard will begin next year.
Helen Choy Shuk-yi, CAN’s general manager, said that bus companies had been reluctant to upgrade their vehicles because of the high cost.
A spokesman from the Environment Bureau stated they would consider measures to tighten emission standards in light of the WHO decision.
Choy expects the WHO to revise its pollution benchmarks in accordance with the decision. This would mean that Hong Kong would fall far short of international air quality standards.
The government says it will implement tougher air-quality targets in 2014.
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