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That familiar choking sensation

Bangkok health authorities fret as PM2.5 levels soar again across metro area

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is taking action against the dangerous air pollution choking the capital, but it stresses that citizens have to safeguard themselves as well.

BMA Department of Health director Chawin Sirinak said 68 public-health service units were manned and ready to aid affected residents.

Set guidelines require city officials to educate the public in times of safe air-quality levels, when the amount of PM2.5 particulates harmful to the respiratory system is under 50 micrograms per cubic metre.

When the PM2.5 level is 50-75mcg, officials must monitor health impacts among people considered most at risk – the homebound elderly, small children, pregnant women and people with respiratory, heart and vascular disease. BMA efforts to reduce the pollution will also be underway.

When the level is 76-100mcg for three consecutive days, medical mobile teams are deployed in affected areas to check on at-risk residents and run health campaigns.

The PM2.5 level is expected to increase throughout this week due to adverse weather conditions.

BMA Environment Department director Chatree Wattanakhajorn said his and other agencies were implementing various measures, including strict enforcement of laws to control pollution sources.

Owners of vehicles spewing black exhaust face arrest and police are being assisted in diverting traffic flow away from congested areas.

All 50 district offices have been instructed to watch for offending vehicles, douse any outdoor fires, strictly control construction-site dust and keep the public informed about the risks and current situation.

City Clerk Silpasuay Raweesaengsoon said the PM2.5 level in 22 areas of Bangkok was beyond the safety limit as of 7am on Wednesday.

Among these were Khlong Kum in Bung Kum district (70mcg), Soi Lat Phrao 95 in Wang Thong Lang (70), Paholyothin Road in Bang Khen (68), Khlong Toei (67), Rama III Road in Yannawa (67) and Lat Krabang Road (67).

She urged residents in these places to stay indoors as much as possible, wear a facemask outdoors and see a doctor if they encounter respiratory issues or eye irritation.

From 10am to noon Wednesday, the PM2.5 level rose to 51-71mcg in 24 areas.

Updates are available online: www.bangkokairquality.com and www.facebook.com/air4bangkok.

The hazardous 51-71mcg level had already been reached by 7am at 38 air quality stations in Greater Bangkok, according to the Pollution Control Department.

The worst-hit places were Pak Nam in Muang Samut Prakan (71mcg), Bangkok’s Soi Lat Phrao 95 (70), Tambon Om Noi in Samut Sakhon’s Krathumban district (70) and Bangkok’s Khlong Kum area (70).

By noon, the level in Pak Nam had reached 75mcg.

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