The Interior Ministry has ordered provincial authorities to immediately implement preventive measures against fine particulate matter (PM2.5) now the country has entered the high-pollution risk season.
An expert has urged the government to lower the safe limit to 25 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3) as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Interior Ministry spokeswoman, Traisulee Taisaranakul, on Wednesday said Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul had ordered provincial governors and Disaster Prevention and Mitigation offices across the country to impose PM2.5 pollution prevention measures.
The high-pollution risk season lasts during winter, especially in 17 northern provinces, Bangkok and adjacent cities.
"Agencies must strictly enforce the law against activities which potentially cause pollution such as open burning, and some kinds of industrial work and construction," Ms Traisulee said.
Wildfires must be prevented. Provincial authorities are required to reach out to locals and promote alternative waste management to avoid open burning which can lead to wildfires, she said.
If a situation escalates, whether it is from a wildfire or high levels of PM2.5 pollution, provincial offices must announce real-time updates and provide warnings to locals.
Mr Anutin also ordered proactive approaches towards locals in areas at risk of air pollution, including preventive measures and punishments for those who violate the law.
"Mr Anutin is concerned about the safety of firefighters battling to stop wildfires. He stressed that [government agencies] must provide adequate welfare and funding," she said.
Pattharawalai Sirinara, a lecturer in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine of Chulalongkorn University, said areas with the highest number of lung cancer deaths are in the northern region and Bangkok, where air pollution is often the worst in the country. In 2017, the ratio of lung cancer deaths was 34.08 per 100,000 capita in the upper North and 32.88 per 100,000 in Bangkok.