“During the last PM2.5 season, my eyes were so irritated that I had to go to the hospital. The doctor used a sharp-edged tool and got something out of my eyes. He showed me what he just got rid of but I couldn’t see because it was so small. The doctor said it was a particle matter.”

Tharathorn Intaratep told us about his story during his break time. As a motorcycle taxi driver, he spends between 14-16 hours on the road every day transporting people and delivering food via different mobile applications. He has been working as a driver for many years since it gives him the freedom he longs for.

“After that day, I had to wear an eye patch and couldn’t work for a couple of days. I still had to see a doctor every once in a while. They suggested I wear a mask and a helmet with an eye shield. However, I couldn’t always wear that since it won’t let me see clearly at night.”

PM2.5 refers to particles that are thinner than a human hair (2.5 micrometers), and therefore cannot be detected by our respiratory system. It can travel directly into capillaries in the lungs. Short-term health effects include coughing, shortness of breath, and skin irritation.

The longer we breathe air that contains PM2.5 that exceeds the limit considered safe, the higher chance we would develop serious diseases as the bodies receive deadly substances through PM2.5 such as heavy metals, carcinogens, and allergens. This is similar to what smoking does.

The 24-hour mean of PM2.5 at Bang Khun Thian Air Quality Monitoring Station from November 2019 – February 2020. The worst air quality day was as much as 96 μg/m³, 2 times higher than the standard in Thailand and 4 times higher than the WHO standard.

Read the full interactive article in English and in Thai . This article was produced by Nicha Wachpanich for Green News Agency, with support from the SEI Asia Media Grant.