In areas surrounding airports, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) are usually considered the most important contributors to local air quality concerns.
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According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), thanks to technological progress, aircraft emissions around airports today are generally low. Since the 1960s, levels of carbon monoxide have come down by 50% and unburned hydrocarbons and smoke by around 90%. Research is targeting a further 80% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) by 2020. The aviation industry is also making substantial investments in cleaner ground support equipment and vehicles to improve local air quality.
In Hong Kong, local levels of air emissions from aviation in Hong Kong have remained relatively stable over recent years at 6% of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 3% of carbon monoxide (CO) and 2% of other air pollutants, according to the latest air pollutant emission inventory published in 2007.
Overall, aviation has a significantly lower impact on local air quality than other source categories, such as road transportation for example).