Bangkok on haze alert

BANGKOK, 27 Jan 2023:

The Thai capital was on alert today due to rising air pollution that has worsened to unhealthy levels, sparking a warning for residents to avoid outdoor activities for some days.

The Thai capital has, since yesterday, been registering unhealthy air quality – which stood at 152 points on the air quality index (AQI).

AQI values at or below 100 are generally considered satisfactory.

The level of PM2.5, the particulate matter of 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter, rose to 58 micrograms per cubic metre (mcg/m³) and could spike even more in the coming days.

The World Health Organisation says PM2.5 is the most dangerous pollutant because it can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood system, causing cardiovascular and respiratory disease and cancers.

The WHO guidelines state that annual average concentrations of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 µg/m³, while 24-hour average exposures should not exceed 15 µg/m³ more than 3-4 days per year.

Amid worsening air quality in virtually every neighbourhood in the capital, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration posted a message on its social media, recommending residents “plan their work and activities” and avoid going out.

“It is advisable to reduce or avoid outdoor activities in areas where air quality reaches levels that can or will affect health,” the message said.

The administration advised to work from home or wear face masks if going about is necessary.

Air pollution is a recurring problem in Thailand during the dry season, which runs from October to April, due to a combination of factors, including heavy traffic, construction and industrial activities, and fires caused by the burning of agricultural waste.