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New software lets people check pollution at home

Jun 11. 2013
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By Thanapat Kitjakosol
The Natio

New software developed by the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) reveals air pollution levels in Bangkok from car exhaust pipes - and how much traffic police and residents are exposed to carcinogenic fumes.
The software records more accurately the amount of toxic substances, making research and subsequent prevention easier for agencies responsible for public health to adopt long-term pollution control and other solutions.
The NIBRA software, jointly developed by NIDA and Bara Scientific Co Ltd, will be able to be downloaded later this year for the public. This will enable people to keep personal records of the density of fumes, and use them with a communal database to calculate density levels of carcinogenic fumes and substances in their neighbourhoods.
Information on those substances would be more accurate and variable, said Assoc Prof Siwatt Pongpiachan, director of NIDA’s Centre for Research and Development of Disaster Prevention and Management.
The software will enable people to record information about their ages, weight and duration of exposure to carcinogenic fumes in areas where they live. They can use those factors to calculate the risk, relying on formulas of exposure to carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and later the possibility of respiratory illnesses or even lung cancer caused by long-term exposure to bad air pollution.
In a study conducted by NIDA based on calculations by NIBRA software, the risk ratio faced by traffic policemen and vendors – in several areas in Bangkok where air pollution is bad – are 10 square -8 and 10 square -9 respectively, which are highest under current NIBRA criteria although not very high under a general standard. However, the calculations will be more precise when NIBRA is completely developed and ready for public use through online download, later this year.
When more information about carcinogenic substances and other items, notably PM10 dust particles, is put into the database – and NIBRA software used widely in many areas in Bangkok, the results of calculations will be more accurate and variable, he said.
Of many cases found under the study, there were two interesting profiles: one is traffic policeman Pol Lance Corporal Winai Khunwangjang, 53, of Din Daeng police station, who complained his health was worse than that of fellow officers doing other duties, or assigned to areas where traffic congestion was less. He is considering seeking an early retirement at 55 years to spend time with his family.
According to records of the Police General Hospital from January to May last year alone, there are 11 policemen, both active and retired, seeking treatment for lung cancer, four of whom were assigned to traffic duties.
Meanwhile, vendor Lamai Changklang, 49, says she regularly experiences headaches, a runny nose and colds, as well as heavy dizziness on hot days. She spends 10 hours a day selling goods by Lat Phrao Road in Choke Chai 4 area, one of the busiest areas in Bangkok. 
NIBRA software’s calculations are based on information collected between 2006 and 2009 from a database operated by the Pollution Control Department. Bara Scientific managing director Ittiphol Kittikhun said he wished the department would upgrade and expand the database and permit public use of it – as is being done in many developed countries, as the investment would be much cheaper compared to treatment costs for lung cancer or respiratory diseases.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s Department of Environment does not collect information on all types of carcinogenic substances or all sizes of dust particles, although it has samples of substances collected in wider areas of Bangkok.
Ittiphol said his firm would collect air samples at 500 locations in the capital, or 10 in each of all 50 Bangkok districts, if it had a budget and the capability to do this.
In the NIDA study, air samples were collected from seven locations in Bangkok and adjacent areas: Khlong Jan National Housing Authority community, Nonsee Witthaya school, Singharaj Phitthayakhom school, Choke Chai 4 police station, a power plant on Thon Buri side, Din Daeng NHA community and Bodindecha school. The highest density of PAHs at the PM10 level was 554 picograms, or 2.2 times beyond a safe level.
Meanwhile, emission of greenhouse gases in Bangkok is 50 per cent of the total amount across the country, and measures should be adopted to control the use of sedan cars, Siwatt said, with an expansion of public transport as a long-term solution.

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