AIR QUALITY in many parts of the country, including Bangkok, deteriorated to harmful levels over the weekend and pollution was predicted to be at a critical level for the rest of the month, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) revealed.
PCD urged people to visit its website, www.pcd.go.th, and Facebook page to regularly check the air pollution, as the air particles level of 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or smaller have risen significantly in many provinces due to the recent cold snap, while those most vulnerable, such as those with heart and respiratory diseases, were warned to avoid outdoor activities during this period.
PCD’s Air Quality and Noise Management Division director Thalearngsak Petchsuwan said last week’s colder weather contributed to a lack of vertical wind that usually carries polluted air out of the city and caused the accumulation of air particles in many major cities, including Bangkok.
“Despite there being a horizontal wind in Bangkok, it has not been enough to lessen air pollution in the city, so I advise people to check the air quality on our website and on Facebook and protect themselves with a face mask,” Thalearngsak said.
The PM2.5 measurement in many major cities has reached beyond safe standards of both the PCD, which is at 50 micrograms, and the World Health Organisation’s guideline of 25 micrograms. Exposure to large amount of PM2.5 can lead to many sicknesses such as eyes and skin irritation, headache and even heart disease.
As of yesterday afternoon, the daily PM2.5 level in Bangkok’s Thon Buri District was as high as 81.3 micrograms per cubic metre of air. Dense smog could also be seen covering the entire capital city, lowering visibility.
Meanwhile, the daily PM2.5 level in many provinces, mostly in the Central and Northern regions, also increased beyond safe limits as well such as in Samut Sakhon (109.2 micrograms), Ratchaburi (92.91 micrograms), and Tak (92.43 micrograms).
Thalearngsak said Bangkok’s air quality would remain poor during this week at least due to strong cold air coming from the North, and he warned there was a possibility that the severe air pollution would remain until the end of this month, if the weather stayed cold and moist.
This was associated with the Meteorological Department’s prediction that the temperature would continue to drop by two to four degree Celsius in the northern, northeastern, central and
eastern parts of Thailand for the rest of this week, as a result of a strong high-pressure system from China.
Tara Buakamsri, Thailand’s country director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, praised the PCD for the early warning it posted on its website about the current surge of air pollution in Bangkok and other cities.
He pointed out, however, that the PCD could do even better if it included whatever PM2.5 information it had in its calculation of the country’s Air Quality Index (AQI).
Tara emphasised that due to the lack of a PM2.5 level, the AQI did not represent real air quality and misled the public, so it was very important that the PCD made sure to include all air pollution factors in the AQI.
Thalearngsak admitted that the current AQI did not properly represent real air quality but insisted the PDC had not deliberately tried to conceal information from the public, which had 24/7 access to real-time PM2.5 statistics at http://aqmthai.com/public_report.php
“We still do not include PM2.5 in our AQI calculation, because there is still no PM2.5 monitoring device installed in every air quality monitoring station, so the department decided not to use this information in the national AQI, as it would cause different AQI calculation standards among our air quality monitoring stations,” he explained.