Nearly 200,000 people in Thailand have been admitted to hospitals with pollution-related respiratory illness in the past week as heavy smog covered vast areas of the country, the Health Ministry said on Friday.
The ministry revealed that more than 1.3 million people in Thailand have fallen sick since January due to the country’s dangerously high levels of air pollution, Radio Free Asia reported.
“The PM2.5 level has been over 51 micrograms per cubic meter of air for more than three consecutive days in 15 provinces, which has begun to affect the people’s health,” public health secretary Opart Karnkawinpong said.
Karnkawinpong said that Thailand’s air pollution levels are higher this year due to increased traffic.
PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, which can get into the lungs and pose significant health risks, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Greenpeace Thailand campaigner Alliya Moun-Ob said the number of people who fell ill because of air pollution could be “the worst we have seen so far,” with several Thai cities being engulfed in thick smog.
“We could see mountains in Chiang Mai but can’t see them anymore. In Bangkok, tall buildings are lost in the smog,” Moun-Ob told Radio Free Asia.
“It’s the post-COVID back-to-normal situation. That is why it is particularly bad this year for Thailand. Also, there is less rain this year compared to last,” she added.
The government has urged residents to stay indoors and wear face masks when leaving their houses. The country’s pollution control department advised people to use personal protective equipment when necessary.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha last month imposed a three-month no-burning rule from Feb. 1 to April 30 to curb wildfires and haze. He has now urged farmers to refrain from burning agricultural waste.
“Please, I don’t want to use the laws. If it’s used, you all will be breaking it. I don’t want anyone to be in trouble, but you must think about the quality of life of others and their health too,” Prayut said.
The pollution control department has previously said that “stagnant weather conditions” were exacerbating vehicle emissions and seasonal fires on agricultural lands. It urged people to reduce outdoor activities.
Thailand’s Chiang Mai city was ranked the second most polluted city in the world on Saturday, with its PM2.5 levels reaching 118.4 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the Swiss air quality company IQAir.
IQAir stated that exhaust fumes from traffic, crop burning, construction-induced pollution, and smoke output from factories are contributing factors to the high levels of PM2.5 in Thailand’s cities.
“Thailand as a country can be counted as a place that has numerous polluted cities, some of which are famous for their levels of smoke and haze,” it stated, citing Bangkok and Chiang Mai as some of Thailand’s polluted cities.
Back in 2019, local authorities in Chiang Mai declared a state of emergency after the city’s air pollution level reached “a disastrous level,” with PM2.5 levels exceeding 700 micrograms per cubic meter.
From The Epoch Times