According to health experts, almost 2.4 million individuals in Thailand have required treatment for medical conditions related to toxic air pollution since the beginning of the year, including roughly 200,000 this week alone.
According to air quality monitoring firm IQAir, Bangkok and Chiang Mai were among the top ten most polluted cities in the world on Friday.
Dr. Piamlarp Sangsayunh, a respiratory illness specialist at Thailand’s Central Chest Institute reports a dramatic increase in patients since February. She said patients have respiratory problems like coughing and sore throats, adding that eye irritation is prevalent as well.
According to Dr. Piamlarp, the elderly are among the most vulnerable to the PM2.5 air pollution, which can exacerbate pre-existing diseases and occasionally necessitate the use of oxygen devices.
She said those working outside, such as the capital’s large army of street sellers and motorbike taxi drivers, were “on the front lines” of the problem.
Toxic Air in Bangkok
Ms. Uraiwan Chantana, who sells fish balls on the street in Bangkok’s core shopping district, said she was fatigued from breathing in hazardous air every day, but she couldn’t close her stand since she had no other means to generate money. I have a burning pain inside my nose and I cough frequently and I’m out of breath when I climb stairs when I don’t normally, she said.
According to Jos Vandelaer, the World Health Organization’s representative in Thailand, air pollution is not only a health issue, but it also reduces economic productivity. If people are sick and can’t go to work, economic activity will suffer,” he said.
Kasetsart University environmental economist Dr. Witsanu Attavanich, says the economic impact of air pollution in Thailand in 2019 was $63.1 billion, or 11% of GDP. One of the most serious concerns is the presence of PM2.5 particles, which are smaller than the diameter of a hair and can penetrate deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream.
According to IQAir, the average PM2.5 concentration in Thailand in 2022 will be 3.6 times higher than the WHO’s annual air quality guideline levels.
“There are more risks of respiratory infections in the long run.” People with asthma can acquire chronic lung disorders, including lung cancer, according to Vandelaer. “What is less well known is that this PM2.5 can cause cardiovascular diseases… raising the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.” According to WHO estimates, air pollution was a role in around 31,000 fatalities in Thailand in 2019.
Toxic haze problem in Southeast Asia
Toxic haze in Thailand is primarily caused by smoke from forest fires, farmers burning crop stubble, automobile emissions, and heavy industry-generated gases. Experts believe that the El Nino weather trend is increasing the haze problem in Southeast Asia.
Thailand has a population of over 70 million people, and poor air quality is an increasing concern ahead of the country’s May 14 election, with the existing administration accused of failing to do enough.
“As a doctor, I’m just on the receiving end dealing with the consequences,” said Dr Piamlarp of the Central Chest Institute.
More legislation, according to Vandelaer, is needed to manage fires and pollution, and individuals should consider how their transportation and lifestyle choices affect air quality.
Huge Wildfire erupts in Thailand’s Nakhon Nayok province
Meanwhile, Another big wildfire has erupted around Khao Tabak in Nakhon Nayok province’s Muang district.
The military has been called in to help put out the fire, and the provincial governor has also dispatched firefighters and officer cadets from the adjacent Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy (CRMA).
Heavy smoke was first seen around the mountain pass on Thursday, but access was difficult due to the fire’s fueling by high winds. The firefighting station and Forest Resource Management Bureau 9 were also called in to help put out the fire.
The fire was still burning on Friday morning, and reinforcements were called in to help put it out.
Acting Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation chief Athapol Charoenshunsa said officials were also attempting to contain flames that had spread to Kanchanaburi’s Khuean Srinagarindra National Park and Tak’s Mae Ping National Park and Mae Tuen Wildlife Sanctuary.
People are mostly responsible for wildfires, such as farmers razing woods for crops or hunters hunting wild animals.
More officers have been dispatched to police woods to combat unlawful burning, Mr Athapol added, citing concerns that the practise is on the rise in reserved forests, wildlife sanctuaries and national park areas.
Anyone detected breaking the law will face severe penalties, he said.
Mr. Athapol stated that he has directed linked agencies to complete their inspections within 30 days in order to create an effective database for managing wildfires and finding answers to the country’s chronic smoke problems.
He claimed that Chaiya Huayhongtong, the chief of Khao Yai National Park, had notified him that the current fire at Khao Tabak was only one km away from Khao Yai National Park.
Officials responded by erecting a fire barrier in order to protect the national park and world heritage sites. According to Mr Athapol, the Royal Forest Department has also dispatched its Yiew Fai unit to assist other units in putting out the fires, with air support from the Royal Thai Army.