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Air unsafe in five northern provinces

Feb 17. 2012
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By The Nation

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Five northern provinces are currently experiencing unsafe levels of minute dust particles in the atmosphere, according to the Pollution Control Department (PCD).

The particles referred to by the department are PM10 (particulate matter 10 micrometres) or smaller.

Lampang had the highest reading, at 235.3 micrograms per cubic metre of air. Safe levels of PM10 particles are considered to be 120 micrograms per cubic metre or less.
The four other provinces with seriously high levels of particles were Phrae (218.08 micrograms), Lamphun (192.1 micrograms), Phayao (123.5 micrograms) and Chiang Rai (123.5 micrograms). 
“The excessive level of these small dust particles can affect the health of locals,” Chukiat Pongsiriwan said yesterday in his capacity as head of Phrae’s Natural Resources and Environment Office.
The PCD measured levels of small dust particles in the North yesterday as part of its airquality monitoring operations. To tackle the problem, the PCD called on authorities to prevent people from burning garbage, agricultural scraps and dry leaves.
Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr Paijit Warachit said smoke from the fires could hurt locals’ health. “It affects the heart, blood vessels, respiratory systems, skin and eyes,” he said.
People in smokefilled areas should wear masks to cover their mouth and nose, Paijit said. “If you experience eye irritation or tightness in the chest, please seek medical help.” 
Lamphun Governor Surachai Khanarsa said he had declared 287 villages as forestfire control zones to prevent the fires from worsening air quality. 
Meanwhile, Chiang Mai public health chief Dr Wattana Kanjanakamon said large amounts of smoke in the air in his province had caused the number of patients to increase by 10 per cent this month.
“We have seen a higher incidence of respiratory problems,” he said. 
Although the amount of small dust particles was within safe limits in Chiang Mai, the threat was increasing, according to governor ML Panadda Disakul. 
“We have prepared necessary measures. If the dust particles reach a critical level, we will ask the Agriculture Ministry to make artificial rain,” Panadda said. 


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