AUTHORITIES are closely monitoring the looming haze in northern Thailand.
Amid threats to the health of people and the economy from the smog, the Public Health Ministry is now on alert as local residents in many northern provinces have reported seeing air pollution in their hometowns.
To date, levels of small dust particles have not exceeded safe limits but the ministry has started making preparations. Its Disease Control Department has instructed the Office of Disease Prevention and Control 1 in Chiang Mai province to prepare a Surveillance and Rapid Response Team so that immediate medical help could be made available to local residents as soon as the haze threat rises.
Department director-general Dr Jessada Chokdamrongsuk yesterday said people most at risk were small children, the elderly, pregnant women and people suffering from chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma or allergies.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Control 1, there were 628,501 cardiovascular patients, 412,796 respiratory patients, 36,203 patients with eye diseases and 40,183 patients with skin diseases seeking treatment due to haze in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Phrae and Nan between January 1 and April 30 of last year.
This year, there has been not been abnormal rise in the four disease groups yet, Jessada said, adding that “we have to be on alert”.
Several northern provinces saw some haze, stemming from forest fire and outdoor burning, but the atmospheric particulate matter with a maximum diameter of 10 microns (PM10) levels remains moderate at 52 to 92 micrograms per cubic metre. The threshold for safe levels of PM10 particles is 120 micrograms.
Chiang Mai Governor Pawin Chamniprasart yesterday said he had already sought the cooperation from government agencies, state enterprises, local administrative bodies, community leaders and the public in helping to prevent a smog crisis.
“From February 20 to April 20 the province will strictly enforce a total fire ban. No fire will be allowed during the period,” he said.