For the second month, Bangkok’s air pollution remains at extremely hazardous levels, with particulate matter (PM) 2.5 often as high as 150 microgrammes per cubic metre of air.
The costs to health and the economy for Thailand are staggering. Recently, Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank Research Centre reported that air pollution could cost up to 6.6 billion baht (207 million USD) in losses for the healthcare and tourism sectors. On smog-related sicknesses, the high PM2.5 levels had already increased the number of patients with respiratory diseases by at least 2.4 million in Bangkok.
The Pollution Control Department sets 50 microgrammes as Thailand’s safe level, with the WHO’s limit at 25 microgrammes. But in fact, there really is “no known safe level for exposure” to particulate matter according to a UK Air Quality Expert Group report. Simply put, there is no safe limit below which it is alright to breathe polluted air.
PM2.5 is extremely harmful as these very fine dust particles are small enough to pass through the lungs and enter the bloodstream, with long-term exposure leading to respiratory and cardio-vascular illnesses including lung cancer, heart disease and strokes.
In controlling particulate matter pollution, Thailand needs a comprehensive approach that can combine both short- and long-term solutions with effective air quality management. In doing so, the country also has the opportunity to contribute to the global challenge of climate change, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.