Bangkok residents brace for worse pollution

Bangkok residents brace for worse pollution

Residents urged to wear face masks

Plenty of Bangkok residents have already donned masks to protect against the smog, but the Department of Pollution Control says it is going to get worse before it gets better. (Photos by Patipat Janthong)
Plenty of Bangkok residents have already donned masks to protect against the smog, but the Department of Pollution Control says it is going to get worse before it gets better. (Photos by Patipat Janthong)

Bangkok's air pollution which exceeds health safety levels has improved but it could worsen at the end of next month, according to the Department of Pollution Control (DPC).

The pollution in the capital has improved after getting worse over the past seven days due to still and stagnant air, said Thaloengsak Phetsuwan, the department's director of Air Quality and Noise Management Bureau.

The amount of fine particulates no more than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, known as PM2.5, had exceeded the safety limit of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air (50µg/m3) over the past week, he said.

These stagnant conditions normally occurred for a short period in the capital during the seasonal transition from winter to summer, when there was little or no wind.

This allowed pollution, mainly from vehicles, to accumulate in the air.

It had the appearance of white or white-brown mist, he said.

However, the situation returned to normal Thursday due to some rainfall, he said.

The Bangkok skyline was obscured by smog on Thursday. The Department of Pollution Control reported that safe air quality levels had returned to most parts of Bangkok later in the day, thanks to scattered showers.

The PM2.5 level dropped to below 50µg/m3 in every location where air quality was measured, except on Intarapitak Road in Thon Buri district which the hazardous pollution was measured at 57 microgrammes.

In Bangkok the department took daily air quality measurements, usually at five locations.

Mr Thaloengsak said that as the Thai Meteorological Department (TMD) has forecast that temperatures will drop again later this month, the pollution may return.

Pollution problems in Bangkok could be prevalent until the end of February, Mr Thaloengsak said.

When the level of fine particulates breaches the safe ceiling, people experience throat irritation and breathing difficulties.

The tissue of organs in the respiratory system could be destroyed by long exposure to unsafe air, Mr Thaloengsak said.

He advised people to limit outdoor activities and wear face masks.

On Thursday the TMD warned of heavy rain in the lower part of the northern region, northeastern provinces, the Central Plains and Greater Bangkok until Sunday.

A drop in temperature will then follow throughout next week and some areas will experience strong winds, the weather office said.

Temperatures will plunge by 6C-8C over the period, the department says.

Meanwhile, environmental activists called on the DPC to include PM2.5 in its regular air quality evaluation for the sake of people's health.

Residents wear face masks as they walk around Bangkok's Victory Monument Thursday.

Tara Buakamsri, the Thailand country director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said there is a big loophole in the process for evaluating air quality in the country because PM2.5, which is important to air quality internationally, has yet to be included in the department's regular evaluation. The department normally uses the level PM10 level for its evaluation and public alerts.

He said that by not including the PM2.5 factor, the department is failing to inform the public of important information.

Bangkok on Wednesday was dominated by heavy smog all day, Mr Tara said.

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