Bangkok’s ‘dust detectives’ reveal where PM2.5 comes from
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) brought together academics, researchers and environmental experts to discuss the city’s plans to tackle PM2.5 air pollution in a forum held at Wichuthit School in Din Daeng on Wednesday.
The team of experts have been working as the city’s so-called “dust detectives” to study PM2.5 – dust particles 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter, long-term exposure to which is linked with chronic diseases including lung and heart problems.
The forum was co-led by Pornprom Wikitset, governor Chadchart Sittipunt’s environmental adviser, and Praphas Lueangsirinapha, director of BMA’s Environment Department, and was moderated by city spokesman Aekvarunyoo Amrapala.
Pornprom cited a city study on dust sources from a reading of 90 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air (μg/m3). Of the 90μg, about 30μg was dust from traffic emissions, 30μg came from burning of organic matter, and 30μg was down to weather conditions, he said.
Thailand’s safe limit for PM2.5 is 50μg/m3.
Pornprom said the city could not control all the air pollution created by the traffic on its own, so needed to collaborate with related agencies under the national agenda on air pollution and with networks of partners to tackle traffic emissions citywide.
He added that the BMA is ready to share the details of its “dust detectives” with other provinces interested in launching a similar initiative.
“Data collected under this programme will help us to plan measures to tackle air pollution based on its source, for example by using water spray, banning vehicles emitting black smoke, or banning the burning of garbage and vegetation.”
Pornprom said the next government must continue prioritising air pollution as a national agenda and issue more measures to control dust from agriculture, industry and transport. He also proposed moving the Bangkok Port (Khlong Toei) to a low-emission zone.
The governor’s adviser said the BMA is doing everything in its power to tackle the fine dust problem, from detecting and screening sources and warning people to providing treatment via BMA air pollution clinics at six locations in the city.
Among the city’s latest initiatives is Line Alert, which offers another channel to check updates on pollution levels that are also available via the BMA’s website and Facebook page.
Praphas also disclosed the results of BMA Environment Department inspections for possible sources of dust from October 1, 2022 to March 14:
- 1,052 Bangkok factories inspected a total of 6,081 times. Eight failed inspections and were told to rectify the issues.
- 133 cement manufacturing plants inspected 793 times. 17 told to make changes to comply with emission standards.
- 676 construction sites inspected 1,591 times. 28 sites failed inspections and were ordered to fix the issues.
- Nine landfill operations inspected 88 times.
- 1,746 vehicles inspected at depots/stands. 14 failed the emission test and must fix the issues.
- 60,270 vehicles screened on the roads in a joint campaign with the Traffic Police Division, Pollution Control Department and Department of Land Transport. 1,265 motorists were issued prohibition orders until the vehicles were fixed.
- 12,975 public buses inspected by the Department of Land Transport and 57 vehicles removed from service.
- 42,755 trucks inspected by Department of Land Transport. 220 banned from public roads due to illegal emissions.
The Environment Department director also advised people to check the air quality via Line Alert, the AirBKK application, or websites www.airbkk.com and www.pr-bangkok.com before leaving home. Those living in zones of high pollution should reduce time spent outdoors or avoid outdoor activities altogether.
City residents can report sources of air pollution via the Traffy Fondue platform 24/7.
The forum reported the city is also providing the following remedial measures for Bangkokians affected by fine-dust pollution:
- Six air pollution clinics at public hospitals throughout the city.
- Mobile medical units from 69 public health centres to reach people in remote areas.
- Free face masks for people in vulnerable groups.
- Air purifiers for preschool child development centres and advice to school directors on following the city’s air pollution prevention measures.
- Public channels that report levels of air pollution, and a platform to report pollution sources.
Wednesday’s forum concluded with BMA executives witnessing the water-spraying of buildings and roads near Wichuthit School by Din Daeng district officials.
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