Killer smog blankets Bangkok as Thailand issues health warnings

Killer smog blankets Bangkok as Thailand issues health warnings and pollution levels soar to eight times safe levels

  • The cloud is made up of a deadly mix of fine dust particles and other pollutants
  • It has carpeted the Thai capital for three days and is a ‘serious threat’ to health
  • The government is set to deploy rain-making planes to combat the dust 
  • It is caused by heavy traffic and factory pollution and stagnant weather

Bangkok’s air has become a ‘serious threat’ to health as the levels of pollution caused by a smog cloud over the city soared and was in some parts eight times higher than safe level.  

Shocking footage shows a thick blanket of killer smog engulfing the Thai capital this morning, turning the sky a gloomy grey and dramatically reducing visibility to just 1km.

Officials have warned that the pollution cloud – a deadly mix of fine dust particles and other air pollutants – has become a serious threat to health.

A layer of thick grey smog blankets the Thai capital of Bangkok on January 14, 2019

Sunrise is seen during a poor air quality day over Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, where pollution levels remain ‘unhealthy’, having been reported as ‘hazardous’ in some parts this weekend

It has been carpeting the city of eight million people for three days, sending the PM2.5 air-quality index (AQI) in parts of Bangkok rocketing. 

Air Quality monitoring websites and both pegged the capital’s pollution at ‘unhealthy’ levels on Sunday and Monday.

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But the Straits Times reported that some districts such as Bang Khen were at ‘hazardous’ levels yesterday morning with a shocking 394 microgrammes per cubic metre – far past the acceptable limit of 50.   

The environment group Greenpeace said Bangkok was currently the 10th most polluted in the world, rivalling some cities in China.

Officials have warned that the pollution cloud – a deadly mix of fine dust particles and other air pollutants – has become a serious threat to health

Women protective mask at the bus stop in heavy air pollution in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, January 14, 2019. Unusually high levels of smog worsened by weather patterns are raising alarm across Asia

Reasons for the persistent smog include combustion exhaust from Bangkok’s increasingly traffic-strewn roads, the burning of fields from farmers outside the city, and pollutants from factories after an explosion in construction projects funded by China. 

Stagnant weather conditions mean it is unlikely to clear quickly own its own. But the government is set to deploy rainmaking planes to seed clouds by dispersing chemicals into the air to aid condensation. 

The weather modification technique should in theory result in rain, which would help to clear the skies.

‘The Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation… expects the rainmaking to be done tomorrow but it depends on wind and humidity levels,’ Pralong Dumrongthai, director-general of Thailand’s Pollution Control Department, told reporters. 

Fine particle matter in the air has been at hazardous levels in Thailand’s capital, and in some areas has reached a PM2.5 air quality level of 394, a level which can cause serious health issues, according to media reports

Health experts say the pollution is a ‘silent killer’, which at current levels is extremely harmful to anyone stepping outside. They said the cost of treating people could run into ‘millions of dollars’.

Witsanu Attavanich, associate professor of economics at Bangkok’s Kasetsart University, said: ‘Air pollution is really a silent killer and many Thais underestimate the danger to their health, so not many people protect themselves by wearing a facemask or installing air purifiers at home.’ 

Mr Attavanich said the country would face billions of baht in additional health costs unless the severe air pollution was tackled.     

Public discontent has surfaced on Thai social media and television, with pollution-related hashtags trending and TV hosts advising viewers on the types of face masks they should wear. 

Smog lingers over the city sky line in Bangkok, Thailand after three days of particularly poor weather, 14 January 2019

Thai authorities are set to deploy rain-making planes to combat the pall of pollution that has shrouding the capital in recent weeks

But the Pollution Department played down the dangers of the persistent haze, saying although the city’s figure is high, ‘it is not a crisis yet’. 

But Greenpeace’s Thailand director Tara Buakamsri said immediate action should be taken by the authorities, such as reducing the number of cars and closing schools in high-risk areas.

‘The pollution issues are more and more frequent in Bangkok. We need smarter air quality management.’

In recent weeks, municipal workers have sprayed water along the roads and into the air in Bangkok to help clear the smog, while authorities have urged people to stay indoors.

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