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US Embassy warning on N Thailand air pollution
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  1. #1
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    US Embassy warning on N Thailand air pollution

    from http://www.udif.or.th/290350.htm

    The American Citizen Services Section of the U.S. Embassy has issued a warden message alerting American citizens living in or visiting northern Thailand to the need to take appropriate health-related precautions due to the unhealthful air quality northern Thailand is currently experiencing. ( Warden Message)

    Warden Message

    March 15, 2007

    This message alerts American citizens living in or visiting northern Thailand to the need to take appropriate health-related precautions due to the unhealthful air quality northern Thailand is currently experiencing. Air quality experts report that excessive trash burning, brush clearing, forest fires and other factors have resulted in severe air contamination in the areas surrounding Chiang Mai. According to the Pollution Control Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, air pollution levels in Chiang Mai have exceeded the maximum acceptable level since the beginning of March. On March 14, the level of particulate matter in the air exceeded the “emergency” level. Measurements at or near the “emergency” level are expected for at least the next several days.

    Health professionals warn that during periods of unhealthful air quality, people with respiratory or heart disease, smokers, elderly persons, and children should avoid prolonged exertion and stay indoors when possible. In addition, everyone should limit activity and prolonged exertion, both indoors and out. This includes exercising in air conditioned fitness centers, since any additional strain on the respiratory system during periods of unhealthful air quality should be avoided.

    Medical professionals also note that cloth masks or bandannas are generally ineffective in reducing smoke inhalation. In order for a mask to work, it must filter fine particles. More functional masks are available at pharmacies, such as the N95 respirator mask available for about 50-55 baht per mask. One size does not fit all. Please choose a correct fit and follow all instructions to ensure proper effectiveness. The recommended maximum use time for most respirators is 7-8 hours.

    Day-by-day particulate matter (PM 10) and air quality statistics are available in English on the Pollution Control Department website at http://www.pcd.go.th/AirQuality/Regional/Default.cfm and at the consulate’s website, http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/consulcm/index.htm.

  2. #2
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    Re: US Embassy warning on N Thailand air pollution

    Further to the above:

    Yes, that warning was issued on March 15.

    However in Chiang Mai the worst carcinogens (<PM10s) have been at dangerous levels on 12 of the days since then; close to dangerous levels on 6 days; and well below the "dangerous" threshold on only 7 days.

    Yesterday they were at 111.4 - 8.6 below the "dangerous" threshold of 120.


    The CM governor recently claimed that tourists should come to CM for Songkran because he could "guarantee" that all the smoke would be gone by then. He can guarantee no such thing. In 1999, a year very similar to this one, dangerous levels of <PM10s persisted till June. They were well over 100 till late June.

    In the interests of not dying of lung cancer, I moved permanently to Krabi province ten days ago. Both my gf and I noticed that the coughs, sneezing fits, stinging eyes and streaming noses that had plagued us for months disappeared instantly.


    A good English language website on the CM air and general environment, for those interested, is:

    http://www.udif.or.th/indexE.htm

  3. #3
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    Re: US Embassy warning on N Thailand air pollution

    The polluted air we breathe

    Should we worry?

    The smoggy, grayish haze that has spread over Chiang Mai and many other provinces of northern Thailand and neighboring countries has been viewed differently by academics who have conducted research related to air pollution.

    Experts are concerned about the health impact from the amount of PM10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 microns – a micron is approximately 1 to 60 the size of human hair cross-section) that exceed 2 to 3 times the allowable amount of 120 micrograms per cubic meters in 24 hours. The standard level, set by the Pollution Control Department, does not mean a “safe” level but the level that a human body can endure. Therefore, if the amount of PM10 exceeds the allowable amount, it is health hazard and can be life threatening, especially those who already have chronic symptoms of respiratory problem and heart disease. Elderly people whose bodies are frail and small children are most at risk and are greater exposed to sickness. Depression and stress is also a key factor during these times of pollution.

    Reports from the Ministry of Health, released by the Northern Thailand Haze Prevention Center, show that 10,654 patients have been affected by the haze problem during March 16-25. Death records due to the haze problem are still unknown. Moreover, many hotels, spas and related business have lost 30-100% of customers which has had a serious impact on the city’s economy.

    For many businesses the pollution has reduced their income which had risen many, many hundred of percents during the 3 months of the Royal Flora exhibition and they want to continue to bring in the same amounts during that boost of tourism in Chiang Mai.

    Even though the Chiang Mai Department of Health and Chiang Mai University have warned and given guidelines what to do and not do when the PM10 level is high, many people continue to exercise outdoor as if nothing has happened. Among those who exercise regularly are top level academics in several fields; thus, reflecting their misperception of the smog problem.

    For government officials and local agencies, the smog has forced them work harder. They see the haze problem as an obstruction to tourism, but not so much as health hazard. Their vision of protecting tourist businesses reflects in their press releases stating that Chiang Mai air is clean but in fact the air is still far from acceptable levels. Besides, the continued haze problems could cost them career advancements. That was why they quickly declared their province was no longer in the state of emergency.

    Some local residents think it’s just haze that we confront every year, after the first rain it will go away. Why worry? Why should they stop burning leaves and garbage, or burning their fields, it has been practiced by their ancestors for a long time. Some well-known academics get very angry saying that the poor are always blamed for leading their traditional way of living, and point the finger to the rich who use cars, live and work in air-conditioned rooms.

    In fact all pollution sources, including smoking cigarettes contribute to the critical haze problem we now confront. General open burning, traffic fumes, and other air hazards occur daily; however, the fires on the mountains are seasonal. Unfortunately, the hill tribes and local people have been the scapegoat for the burning on highland areas. The farmers will normally only burn their fields a little before it rains in late April and early May. Haze problems in late February and March are the product of some groups whose intentions are unknown.

    The fact is pollution is a threat to our life supporting system. Air is the necessity for human, animals and plants. We can fast up to a month, we can stop drinking up to many days, but we cannot stop breathing. Our breathing is so automatic and we do not realize that we breathe in and out; as a result, we never pay attention to our breathing, let alone the quality of the air we in take. Although breathing clean and smoke free air is basic human rights, it has not been put on the agenda of human rights activists.

    Haze, if it is prolonged, will not only affect our health now and in the near future, but it will greatly affect the photosynthesis of plants and trees. Therefore, haze is also a threat to our food security. Dr. Wanarak Wongsaikaew, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University discovered that a kind of lichen that can withstand urban air, commonly used as a bio-indicator in England, has begun to bleach at its edge in many areas in Chiang Mai-Lampun valley. The bleaching means they are dying and a warning sign of things to come. This is only one bio-indicator; there may be more if we investigate further. If haze affects the lichen’s life, it may affect our lives too.

    Submitted by Dr. Duongchan Apavatjrut Charoenmuang, PhD. Researcher at the Social Research Insitute at Chiang Mai University.


    Chiang Mai Mail

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    Re: US Embassy warning on N Thailand air pollution

    Just as a matter of interest, the air here in Chiang Mai is fine. As promised, , there is very little (seems) pollution in the air. Did take a drive around the hills yesterday (Mae Rim, Samoeng, Hang Dong loop) and there was pretty extensive evidence of burning but thankfully all the debris in the air had gone by the time we got here.

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