Air pollution cited as four Chiang Mai University academics die of cancer


Air pollution in the Northern Region continued to exceed safe standards on Saturday, with burning in neighbouring countries heavily contributing to the problem.

With fine particulate matter measured at PM2.5, air pollution in Chiang Mai has reached crisis level, ranking as the world's top most polluted city with severely deteriorated air quality, posing health risks.

According to IQAir, a website that collects and reports air-quality data and ranks cities’ pollution globally, as of around 9.30am, Chiang Mai's air quality index (AQI) was 267, placing it at the top spot globally.

Meanwhile, Chiang Mai University academics posted on Facebook a very sad story about four colleagues who passed away from lung cancer believed at least partly due to air pollution.

Assistant Professor Phichaapa Pisutseranee of the International Affairs Office, Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration, Chiang Mai University, posted on her personal Facebook page regarding the issue, stating:

"The list of Chiang Mai University academics who passed away due to lung cancer is as follows:

“March 2022: Associate Professor Dr Phanuwan Chanthawankoon, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University.

“September 2023: Associate Professor Mongkol Rayanakorn, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University, the former dean of the Faculty of Science. He began studying air pollution in 2007 when the danger of PM2.5 was not yet known, under a research grant from the National Research Council of Thailand.

Air pollution cited as four Chiang Mai University academics die of cancer

“December 2023: Dr Kritthai Thanakritsombat, an instructor at the Epidemiology and Clinical Statistics Clinic, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University.

“April 2024: Professor Raviwan Olanratmanee, dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Chiang Mai University.”

Phichaapa added: “How many more losses must we endure before we can address the issue of burning and pollution effectively?”

Jittakorn Olanratmanee, the husband of Raviwan, revealed that his wife had started to fall ill with lung cancer about a year ago. Initially, they thought it was a symptom of long Covid, but at one point, Raviwan started coughing up blood, prompting them to get a health checkup at the Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University. The diagnosis revealed that she was in the fourth stage of lung cancer.

Jittakorn said: "I would like to convey to the government that we have been facing this issue for a long time. However, since it has not directly impacted us significantly, we have not given it much importance. But one day, if someone in our family or we ourselves get lung cancer, we will immediately realise how severe the impact of PM2.5 is."

He concluded that it's important to use the case of Raviwan as a case study. From now on, every party involved, whether it's the government or stakeholders, should focus on addressing this issue more seriously. At the very least, it may not completely solve the smog problem, but reducing its severity would be a step in the right direction.