Air pollution has forced the suspension of classes at private schools across Bangkok this week, though on Wednesday the Pollution Control Department (PCD) reported fewer areas with unsafe levels of PM2.5 – airborne particulates 2.5 microns in diameter and smaller.
Kindergarten to secondary students at Roong Aroon School in Bang Khun Thien are on unscheduled holiday through Friday after the PM2.5 level topped 90 micrograms per cubic metre of air in the district on Tuesday.
The safety limit is 50.
Administrators at Lertlah School Petkasem in Nong Khaem district took the same measure and are reportedly considering postponing exams unless the situation improves.
In Thawi Watthana district, Plearnpattana School is keeping kindergarten pupils at home through Friday.
Nearby Baanploypoom Kindergarten on Tuesday told parents to use their discretion about what their kids should do, especially if they have health issues. Families unable to arrange babysitting on short notice could send their kids to the school, but all outdoor activities are cancelled.
The Education Ministry has issued no directives about temporary school closures, leaving it to the discretion of administrators.
On January 14 it instructed directors of schools in unsafe areas to bring their daily flag-raising ceremonies indoors and to make other adjustments with student safety in mind.
Dr Kiat Rakrungtham of the Royal College of Physicians of Thailand, speaking at a recent seminar on the pollution crisis, recommended that schools be closed or class times rescheduled while the problem lingers.
He cited a Japanese study’s finding that children under five years developed pneumonitis due to lengthy exposure to fine-particle airborne dust.
Unicef has warned that PM2.5 can migrate from the lungs into the bloodstream and affect other organs. It also said exposure to “large amounts” of PM2.5 during pregnancy could affect the baby’s development.
The PCD reported on Wednesday that the PM2.5 level was an unsafe 51-69 micrograms per cubic metre in 14 areas of Greater Bangkok, down from 40 areas on Tuesday, when nearly 10 districts were above 90 micrograms, earning “code-red” status.
It said the situation had improved on Wednesday in most of the code-red areas, including at the Tanon Tok intersection in Bang Kho Laem district, which hit 101 micrograms on Tuesday and was down to 69 on Wednesday.
Phetchkasem Road in Phasi Charoen district was at 100 micrograms on Tuesday and 50 on Wednesday. Rama II Road in Bang Khun Thien went from 96 to 56.
Citing a Meteorological Department weather forecast, the PCD said strong winds should dissipate much of the pollution on Thursday.
It reiterated that it was working with other agencies to get polluting vehicles off the road, clean the streets, spray water into the air in trouble spots, stop outdoor burning and create artificial rain.