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Authorities urge curbs on burning incense sticks, golden paper offerings for Year of the Pig


THE PUBLIC Health Ministry is calling on people to burn shorter incense sticks and avoid setting fire to paper offerings during this Chinese New Year in order to stop pollution from worsening.

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The amount of PM2.5 dust particles in many parts of Thailand, particularly Greater Bangkok, has now exceeded the safety limit of 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air. 
Chinese people usually burn paper offerings in dedication to gods, goddesses or ancestors on special occasions such as the Chinese New Year, which falls on February 5 this year. 
“Please help reduce the dust,” Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr Sukhum Karnchanapimai said yesterday, urging people to use incense sticks that met Thai industrial standards.
“Also avoid lighting incense sticks in air-conditioned rooms or windowless rooms,” he advised.
The minister added that children, pregnant women as well as those suffering from chronic diseases such as asthma and allergies, should avoid exposure to smoke. 
“If it cannot be avoided, ensure you wear a proper facemask,” he said. 
Health Department director-general |Dr Panpimol Wipulakorn warned that ash from incense sticks and golden paper offerings contained carcinogenic substances. 
Meanwhile, Sonthi Kotchawat, an environmental expert, posted a message on Facebook calling on the authorities to seriously address the problem of fine dust in the air. 
“Samut Sakhon province has a high amount of PM2.5 particles for several days already. It’s time a law was invoked to control this,” he said. It was over 120 micrograms per cubic metre of air yesterday.
He also pointed out that the Pollution Control Department (PCD) had previously proposed that provincial authorities take action if PM2.5 particles in the air went beyond 75 micrograms per cubic metre of air.
“But nothing has been done,” he lamented.
As of press time yesterday, areas along Rama II Road in Samut Sakhon’s Muang district had 119 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air and the air-quality index stood at 229, the worst so far this year. 
Other areas reporting beyond-safe levels of PM2.5 included Rama III-Charoen Krung roadside in Bangkok’s Bang Kho Laem district (71 micrograms); tambon Song Khanong in Samut Prakan’s Phra Pradaeng district (70 micrograms); and tambon Nakhon Pathom in Nakhon Pathom’s Muang district (70 micrograms). The air was no better in tambon Bang Sao Thong in Samut Prakan’s Bang Sao Thong district (69 micrograms) and tambon Om Noi of Samut Sakhon’s Krathum Baen district (69 micrograms). 
The PCD, meanwhile, is calling on people to refrain from using vehicles that emit black exhaust fumes, avoid outdoor burning and reduce the use of personal cars. People with sensitivities or chronic illness should seek medical attention if they experience anything abnormal. 


Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Karnjanarat held a meeting with Bangkok Governor Pol General Aswin Kwanmuang and relevant authorities yesterday afternoon to follow up on anti-dust operations. 
Asked about the serious pollution in Samut Sakhon, Surasak said the provincial governor was authorised to declare the province a controlled area if necessary. 
Updates on air quality are available via www.air4thai.pcd.go.th and the phone app “air4thai”.

Published : January 29, 2019

By : THE NATION