“Don’t go out if you can’t see the power pole in your neighbourhood during the day. That’s a sign that the amount of small dust particles in the air has reached a dangerous level,” said Dr Pornthep Siriwanarangsan, head of the Disease Control Department.
His comment is based on data that power poles are usually 40 metres apart. If one is unable to see nearby power poles, it means the amount of small dust particles or PM10 has soared above 200 micrograms per cubic metres of air.
“That amount is really harmful to health,” he said. Safe limits require that the amount of PM10 be no higher than 120 micrograms per cubic metre of air.
Pornthep said when the air pollution gets that bad, people should stay inside and close the doors/windows of their houses.
He said research conducted in the US had shown that death rates increased to one for every 100,000 people when the PM10 particles reached 210 micrograms. The number of patients with smog-related health problems has soared since serious smog problems hit Lamphun and Phayao.
Pornthep said people should wear masks and glasses if they have to go out amid the smog.
“The smog problem is more serious than last year,” he said.
Eight northern provinces have seen the amount of PM10 dust particles soar above safe limits. Chiang Rai has seen the worst.
Pornthep urged village health volunteers to help prevent locals from lighting fires to burn garbage or “clear” farmland.
“More fires will mean worsening smog problems,” he said.
Nan public-health chief Dr Pisit Sriprasert said people should not rub their eyes with their hands if they feel eye irritation because of the smog.
“Use wet fabric on your eyes. But if the conditions are serious, please immediately visit doctors,” he said.
Pollution Control Department (PCD) director-general Wicharn Simachaya, meanwhile, said forest fires that caused harmful haze in the North were mainly in neighbouring countries.
“It is very difficult to control smog in neighbouring countries,” he said, adding that the number of forest-fire hotspots in Thailand had declined over the past week.
To reduce haze caused by forest fires in areas around Thailand, Wicharn said he would attend a meeting with Greater Mekong Subregion countries such as Laos, Burma, Cambodia, and Vietnam to seek a resolution to control trans-boundary haze.
“I hope that these countries will cooperate with us to reduce haze.”
He claimed it was very difficult for government officials to prevent people from lighting farms to burn garbage and clear farmland.
“The only thing that we can do now is ask people to give us cooperation from local people to keep their villages free from slashing and burning,” he said.