The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Pollution Control Department predicts that the quality of air in Bangkok next year will deteriorate significantly due to a dramatic increase in the number of private cars in the city.
The prediction is based on the department's 2011 survey of the level of benzene detected by four air quality measurement stations in the Din Daeng, Pathumwan, Wang Thonglang and Thon Buri areas.
The survey found the level of benzene in the capital's air last year remained well above the safe air quality standard of 1.7 milligrammes per cubic metre.
According to the survey report released yesterday, air in Din Daeng contained 6.3mg per cubic metre of benzene, followed by 6.1 in Pathumwan, 4.3 in Wang Thonglang and 3.6 in Thon Buri.
Daily intake of the polluted air could cause cancer and other health problems, the department warned.
Benzene occurs naturally but it is primarily used as an additive in petroleum products, the report said. Its use has been restricted in many countries due to its carcinogenic qualities.
The Pollution Control Department and the Energy Ministry expressed concern about the high concentration of benzene in the city's air. They have worked closely to help reduce benzene emissions since the start of this year.
Together they have introduced new Euro 4 fuel that contains only 1% benzene, compared to 3.5% in the previous formula.
But changing to the new petrol formula could only cut benzene emissions down by 1.5 times as authorities have done little in terms of awareness campaigns to encourage motorists to switch to Euro 4 fuel, the report said.
Wichien Jungrungruang, the department's director-general, said he was concerned by the projected increase in the number of private cars in the capital next year after the government encouraged people to buy a first car with promises of a 100,000 baht tax rebate.
Mr Wichien said about 1.2 million cars had been sold under the scheme and half of them would be on the road in Bangkok. He said the department will set up more air safety measurement stations in Bangkok and instruct officials to keep an eye on the quality of air.
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- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin