Thailand confronts a critical air pollution challenge, with numerous individuals visiting hospitals for health issues related to toxic smog. Health authorities reveal that about 2.4 million people have pursued medical help since 2023 began, with respiratory difficulties, dermatitis, eye irritation, and sore throats being the most prevalent concerns.
On Thursday morning, Bangkok and the northern metropolis of Chiang Mai ranked among the most contaminated cities globally, according to air quality monitoring firm IQAir. Rampant agricultural and forest fires have produced denser-than-normal smog, suffocating communities and subjecting them to respiratory illnesses. The deteriorating air quality has emerged as a contentious topic before the May 14 elections, with the current government accused of insufficient action to address the issue.
The crisis has heavily impacted people’s health, with families struggling to shield their children from the noxious smog. Northern Thai father Thommamoon Khowasat has been painstakingly explaining to his four-year-old daughter that the yellow haze outside their window is actually hazardous to her wellbeing. “She doesn’t understand as a child. She believes it’s natural fog. But the reality is: it’s a toxic fog,” he expressed.
In Chiang Rai province, residents have been vigilantly monitoring air quality levels daily. Dr. Veera Isarathanan of Mae Chan Hospital is concerned for newborns exposed to the polluted air. Infants cannot wear face masks, and even with air purifiers, the nursery’s atmosphere can pose a risk. “Their lungs are just beginning to function,” Dr. Isarathanan remarked.
Public outcry has led to protests, with people demanding that authorities intervene. On Monday, around 200 people in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai demonstrated outside a local government office, urging action. “Mae Sai residents currently live in anguish. Both young and old endure hardship,” stated demonstrator Somyot Nittayaroj.
The government has encouraged people to wear high-quality N95 anti-pollution masks, close windows and doors, limit outdoor exposure, and exercise indoors. However, many ignore these precautions. For farmers, burning their land is often the simplest and most cost-effective method of clearing it.
Satellite data identified numerous fire hotspots in Myanmar, followed by Laos. Fires have also been detected in Cambodia and Vietnam. However, most pollution still originates from closer sources. The government has directed lawmakers to pursue those responsible for forest fires, and laws restricting agricultural burning exist. Nonetheless, lax enforcement has led to deteriorating air quality each year during the dry season, typically spanning November to March.
Hazardous particulate matter levels, specifically PM2.5 particles, have risen significantly. These particles are tiny enough to enter the lungs and bloodstream. Exposure to PM2.5 dust may cause eye and skin irritation, coughing, and chest tightness. The symptoms can worsen for those with pre-existing heart or lung conditions.
In Chiang Rai, the haze has become so dense that it obscures its renowned mountains, and typically verdant foliage appears grey. Drone footage over the city’s parks and streets reveals barely recognizable scenes, with structures reduced to hazy silhouettes. Fire trucks were deployed to spray water into the air to clear the dust, but this offers only a temporary fix, and authorities warn that the bleak situation will persist for the next few days due to scarce wind that could disperse the dust.
Moreover, pollution from industrial facilities and transportation, including cars, buses, and motorbikes, contributes significantly to the nation’s poor air quality. Diesel engines and the high volume of vehicles on the roads are key factors in elevated pollution levels.
The predicament has become so critical that millions of Thai citizens are seeking medical care for air pollution-related illnesses. Health officials report that roughly 2.4 million individuals in Thailand have sought hospital treatment for medical issues associated with air pollution since 2023 commenced. The most common health problems include respiratory difficulties, dermatitis, eye irritation, and sore throats.
The consequences of air pollution are especially severe in northern Thailand, where forest fires and agricultural burning have generated a dense smog that engulfs communities and exposes them to respiratory diseases. In the tourist-popular Chiang Rai province, people have been vigilantly monitoring air quality levels daily, with some forced to remain indoors due to hazardous conditions. Even newborns are at risk, as they cannot wear face masks and are especially susceptible to air pollution’s harmful effects.
Despite the alarming pollution levels and their significant impact on public health, the Thai government has been accused of not adequately addressing the issue. The nation’s deteriorating air quality has become a contentious topic leading up to the May 14 elections. The incumbent government faces criticism for not enforcing laws restricting agricultural burning and failing to promote public transportation and other eco-friendly alternatives.
The Thai government has advised people to use high-quality N95 anti-pollution masks, close windows and doors, minimize outdoor exposure, and exercise indoors to safeguard themselves from the hazardous air quality. However, these measures do not address the problem’s root causes. To tackle air pollution, the government must take more assertive action, including implementing stricter regulations on industrial emissions and transportation, investing in sustainable transportation options, and enforcing laws restricting agricultural burning.
In summary, air pollution is a grave public health concern in Thailand, affecting millions, particularly in the country’s northern regions. The high pollution levels result from various factors, including forest fires, agricultural burning, and emissions from industrial facilities and transportation. The impact of air pollution on public health is severe, with millions seeking medical treatment for pollution-related illnesses. To protect public health and the environment, the Thai government must take more assertive action to address air pollution’s root causes.
Source : Envirotech