By Pratch Rujivanarom
Citizen in the North are being advised to stay inside air conditioned buildings and avoid all outdoor activities, as some areas of Chiang Mai recorded PM2.5 levels reaching higher than 700 micrograms per cubic metre of air on Saturday morning.
Witsanu Attavanich, a lecturer at Kasetsart University, said that with such deadly levels of PM2.5 pollution in the air over 500 micrograms, it is far beyond the capacity of the local authorities to cope with the situation and the central government needs to step in now and declare a state of emergency.
“Such a disastrous level of PM2.5 is probably the highest level ever recorded in Thailand,” Witsanu said.
“No need to consider the level of threat from such dangerously hazardous air pollution on our health, as breathing in only 100 micrograms of PM2.5 is considered to be very harmful to the health of healthy persons.”
Earlier on January, all schools in Bangkok were temporarily shut down when the PM2.5 level was around 70 to 120 micrograms. But, so far, except for the preparation of safe zones in Chiang Mai city centre, no such emergency procedure has been ordered by Chiang Mai Provincial Authority.
Chiang Mai again was the the world's most polluted city onairvisual.com as of 11am as it had an air quality index (AQI) of 532 and 549.4 mcg in PM2.5, way ahead of the second place holder, Delhi (215 and 164.2 mcg).
The Chiang Mai Air Quality Health Index (CMAQHI) Center's website (cmaqhi.org) cited the hourly amount of PM2.5 – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – in Chiang Mai at 5am reached more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre of air, while the AQI for the top seven areas flashed the "beyond AQI reading capacity" message.
The website's "DustBoy" readings showed Tambon Yang Mern in Samoeng district was worst off with the PM2.5 level of 763.05 mcg followed by Tambon Kud Chang in Mae Taeng district at 625.34mcg, and Tambon Thung Satok in San Pathong district at 582.33 mcg.
Muang Chiang Mai had an AQI of 397 and the PM2.5 level of 346.66 mcg while the Maharat Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital area cited an AQI of 340 and the PM2.5 level of 290.14 mcg.
Chiang Mai University’s Research Institute for Health Sciences director Professor Kwanchai Suparatpinyo said the situation was critical. He cited the worsening haze from the many forest fires that ravaged Chiang Mai and the northern region while the trans-border smoke from neighbouring countries were also a factor.
He urged people to stay indoors and refrain from all outdoor activity - especially small children, elderly persons and pregnant women as well as those with chronic ailments such as allergies and heart disease.
In the mean time, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) at 11am, put the 24-hour average of PM2.5 between 36mcg and 239mcg per cubic metre of air in nine northern provinces. Tambon Jong Kham in Muang Mae Hong Son was worst off at 239 mcg, followed by Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district at 224 mcg. Tambon Wiang in Muang Chiang Rai cited 98 mcg, while Chang Pheuk and Sri Phum in Muang Chiang Mai cited 172 mcg and 168 mcg respectively.