Alarmingly high PM2.5 levels found in Chiang Mai, INSIDE a safety zone building

Alarmingly high PM2.5 levels found in Chiang Mai, INSIDE a safety zone building

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A Chiang Mai air-pollution safe zone proved to be not that ‘safe’ according to a medical lecturer. The level of PM2.5 very fine particles was found to be very high INSIDE the designated area.

But the problem was soon resolved later in the day.

Dr Rungsrit Kanjanavanit, a lecturer in medicine at Chiang Mai University, posted a picture of him holding a portable PM2.5-measuring device yesterday, which read the level of PM2.5 inside a designated air-pollution safe zone at Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre and showed a shockingly unhealthy level of AQI of 172, or 98 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Even though the measured level of PM2.5 inside the safe zone was considerably lower than the PM2.5 level outside, which reached as high as 292 mcg, such a high indoor PM2.5 concentration is far higher than both Thailand and the World Health Organisation’s safety standards of 50 mcg.

“I think the problem is the size of the room is too big for the air purifier to properly filter out PM2.5 from the air inside the room,” Rungsrit said.

But Paskorn Champrasert from Chiang Mai University’s Centre of Excellence in Natural Disaster Management moved in to fix the problem yesterday afternoon. He confirmed at 6 pm that the safe zone had been returned to a PM2.5 dust level below the safety limit.

Last Friday Chiang Mai Governor Supachai Iamsuwan ordered the creation of safe zones in every district of the province, to serve as places of refuge for people to seek shelter from the very hazardous smog situation outside.

Link: https://thethaiger.com/hot-news/air-pollution/alarmingly-high-pm2-5-levels-found-in-chiang-mai-inside-a-safety-zone-building

Wildfires thicken air over Thailand into planet’s most toxic

Wildfires thicken air over Thailand into planet’s most toxic

Siraphob Thanthong-Knight

Bloomberg

Bangkok, Thailand   /   Tue, April 2, 2019 /   12:32 pm

Top Asian finance ministers and central bankers are due to have a summit in northern Thailand this week, and they’ll need pollution masks if they want to avoid breathing toxic air.

Wildfires and crop burning are blanketing the region with smog, prompting Thailand’s junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha to fly to Chiang Mai — the area’s tourist hot-spot — early Tuesday to review the crisis. The city’s air quality index was 379 as he visited, the worst major urban reading globally and a level that’s hazardous, according to IQAir AirVisual pollution data.

The air was classed as unhealthy in nearby Chiang Rai, where finance ministry officials and central bankers from Southeast Asian nations as well as China, Japan, and South Korea will meet from Tuesday through Friday. The Bank of Thailand has said it will hand out pollution masks to media covering the event.

Thai authorities blame crop burning to clear farmland, as well as wildfires in mountainous forests amid a drought and searing heat. Chiang Mai has set up a so-called safe zone for residents in a convention center, while a university in Chiang Rai canceled classes on Monday and Tuesday.

“The haze usually comes and goes within a week or two, but it’s been persistent this time — it’s the worst so far,” Khuanchai Supparatpinyo, the director of Chiang Mai University’s Research Institute for Health Sciences, said in an interview. “This can be quite dangerous, and pose health risks.”

Northern Thailand is a popular destination for visitors during the traditional Thai new year festival in mid-April but the smog is likely to make some holidaymakers think twice.

At the start of 2019, the military government was rattled by the second year of spiking seasonal air pollution in Bangkok, exacerbated by traffic fumes, industrial emissions, and construction dust.

So far the episodes of smog haven’t damaged tourism but worsening haze could pose a challenge for an industry that’s key to economic growth.

Link: https://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/2019/04/02/wildfires-thicken-air-over-thailand-into-planets-most-toxic-.html

Prayut promises to ease smog in northern Thailand in a week

Prayut promises to ease smog in northern Thailand in a week

PUBLISHED APR 2, 2019, 9:27 AM SGT UPDATED APR 2, 2019, 7:42 PM

 

Tan Hui Yee

BANGKOK – As choking smog continued to smother northern Thailand, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha flew to Chiang Mai province yesterday (Tues) and promised full government assistance to tackle the crisis.

The region appears to have been hit particularly hard this year by the haze, an annual scourge caused by forest fires and the illegal slash and burn method of clearing farmlands during the height of summer.

At 2 pm on Tuesday, vast swathes of the north in Nan, Phayao, Lampang, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, and Chiang Rai registered 24-hour average readings of fine airborne particulate matter that exceeded safety standards. The presence of pollutants smaller than 2.5 micrometers reached as high as 256 micrograms per cubic meter near the Myanmar border in Mae Hong Son province.

Fires continued to rage across the mountainous north, with Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency recording as many as 348 hotspots on Monday (April 1).

Handing out firefighting equipment to some officials on Tuesday (April 2), Mr. Prayut promised: “The government will support this operation with all its resources, to ease the problem within seven days.”

Embattled Chiang Mai governor Supachai Iamsuwan, under strong criticism for not doing more to tackle the problem, told reporters on Tuesday: “We will ramp up all operations and solve the problem within seven days. We will go down to the smallest (fire) in the villages.”

He added that the Chiang Mai administration had set up 297 places of refuge equipped with air-conditioning and air purifiers.

“We believe that the centers are suitable and we have enough, but we can add more if needed.”

But many Chiang Mai locals remained skeptical about government efforts.

Hotelier Pornchai Jitnavasathien dismissed the idea of the centers, saying: “It’s not working. It’s a crazy idea. You should be giving out masks and asking people to stay at home rather than moving them to centers.”

The government, he said, should have declared a crisis so that people could stay at home rather than risk their health by heading outdoors.

“If this had happened in Bangkok, there would have been a lot of pressure on the government,” he said.

In late January, still, winds concentrated city pollution in the air surrounding the capital, triggering an uproar in Bangkok. Officials rushed to check vehicle emissions and even halted construction work. In some locations, maintenance and firefighting crew sprayed water into the air, the same as they are doing now in Chiang Mai.

In the landmark general election on March 24, Chiang Mai locals cast their ballots in facemasks.

Hotel occupancy in the city – the second biggest in Thailand – typically hits 60-70 percent during the Songkran holiday period in mid-April, but is hovering at 30 to 35 percent now, said Mr. Pornchai.

Locals are now improvising on equipment try to make the air more breathable.

On Facebook, they are sharing tips on how to pair a regular extractor fan with a Xiaomi air filter, to create a home-made air purifier for just 1,200 baht (S$51). A full-scale purifier costs at least four times as much.

“If you don’t have enough money for an air purifier, this can help,” says freelance programmer Nattapol Kurapornkietpikul, 30, who was inundated with queries after he shared pictures of his idea on his Facebook account. Both items are now out of stock in many places.

Link: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/chiang-mai-haze-thai-king-urges-volunteers-to-help-pm-prayut-set-to-visit-smog-hit-city