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437 Bangkok schools closed for a day

Students in Samut Prakan's Muang district wear face masks as they arrive at Songwitthaya School, where teachers briefed them on how to protect themselves from hazardous PM2.5 dust particles. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

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The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has ordered 437 schools under its jurisdiction to be closed today as air pollution has hit dangerous levels.

Somruethai Thammaporn, a 10-year-old Pathom 6 student in Phra Nakhon district -- where the PM2.5 level is the highest -- was relieved.

"It is good that we students don't have to walk to school and breathe polluted air. But I don't want the school to stay closed for too long because the lessons will be missed," she said.

Pollution in Bangkok has been getting worse since early this month. Unsafe PM2.5 levels were on Tuesday detected in 50 of 52 areas in greater Bangkok, ranging from 55 to 89 microgrammes per cubic metre of air (µg/m3), exceeding the government-set "safe" threshold of 50µg/m3.

However, since not all schools in Bangkok are closing, many students will still have to inhale bad air as they go to school.

While many students are delighted with the option of staying home, albeit for a short time, parents are asking if the decision to close schools is good for their children's education.

Sophavadee Sankosik, the mother of a 13-year-old girl, also asked if closing schools will really solve the problem.

"The question is: what will we do if the pollution is prolonged for another month? Will we close schools every time the PM2.5 levels exceed safe limits?" she asked.

Ms Sophavadee said the government should impose long-term measures that solve the problems at their root, instead of imposing short-term measures such as closing schools every time pollution exceeds safe limits.

She added that she was waiting for the government to take proper action, such as banning polluting cars. "People are waiting for direction and they are ready to cooperate. But what we are lacking is leadership ... we are waiting for a leader who dares to make tough decisions, which might upset some, but is good for health and the environment in the long term," she said.

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Vocabulary:

albeit : although - ถึงแม้ว่า

detected : noticed, discovered or found out - จับได้ พบได้

exceed : to be more than something; to go beyond a limit - เกินกว่าที่กำหนด

inhale : to breathe in - สูดลมหายใจ

leadership : the leaders of a group; the people in charge of a group of people; who manages them and "leads" them in doing some activity - ผู้นำ

measure : a firm action taken to solve a problem or stop a dangerous unpleasant situation - มาตราการ

PM2.5 (n): atmospheric particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. It can lodge in the lungs and enter blood vessels, leading to respiratory and cardiovascular disease -

polluted : (of water, air, land) having dirty or harmful substances so that it is no longer pleasant or safe to use - ซึ่งเป็นมลพิษ

prolonged : continuing for a long time - ยืดเวลาออกไป

proper : actual or real - จริง (พระราชพิธีพระราชทานเพลิงพระศพจริง)

relieved : happy that something unpleasant has not happened or has ended - โล่งใจ, เบาใจ, หมดกังวล, ผ่อนคลาย

root : a basic cause or idea - รากฐาน, แก่นแท้, ต้นตอ

threshold : the level or point at which you start to experience something, or at which something starts to happen - จุดเริ่มของประสบการณ์หรือเหตุการณ์ใหม่ๆ

tough : strong and able to deal with difficult situations or pain - แข็งแรง

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