Health dept chiefs take aim at haze

Health dept chiefs take aim at haze

Health officials have renewed efforts to fight PM2.5 ultra-fine dust and other harmful air pollutants in order to meet a target of reducing illnesses caused by air pollution by 10% in two years.

The goal was announced by Health Department chief Phanphimon Wipulakon yesterday ahead of Thai Environmental Health Day tomorrow.

Dr Phanphimon said the amount of fine dust in the air in many provinces, including Bangkok, still exceeds acceptable levels.

Though the air pollution situation has improved on last year, levels of harmful PM2.5 and PM10, as well as ground-level ozone and airborne benzene, remain matters of critical concern, she said.

Particulate matter (PM), with sizes of 2.5 and 10 micrometres in diameter, was the main concern caused by the air pollution that gripped Bangkok and provinces in the upper North earlier this year. The dust mainly came from bush fires and vehicle emissions from traffic congestion in large cities.

"Using fuels like firewood and kerosene for cooking food and keeping warm can emit pollutants," Dr Phanphimon said, adding that 18% of households in the North and Northeast still use this kind of "dirty" fuel for cooking.

The health impact of these pollutants is alarming, according to the department.

While micro dust can easily lodge in the lungs causing breathing difficulties, tainted air can bring about a range of disorders from throat irritation to poor lung function. In serious cases, it can even cause a person to lose consciousness.

"We need to use both legal mechanisms and collective voluntary efforts in order to curb emissions right at their sources," Dr Phanphimon said.

There is an urgent need to keep people informed of air quality and make them aware of the risks air pollution poses to health, she added.

Young children and elderly people are most vulnerable, according to Dr Phanphimon.

The government also needs to manage and connect pools of data on environment and public health to better plan precautionary measures, she added.

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