Home / News / India /  Planning a trip to Thailand? Before you pack, check alarming air pollution levels

Thailand has been reeling under extreme air pollution leading to the government urging people to stay safe and indoors. 'I feel my eyes burn', residents in Bangkok complained as the air quality index in the island nation went past the safety levels on Thursday. 

Echoing scene that extreme air pollution does to India's national capital Delhi, Thailand's Bangkok witnessed poor visibility and residents faced severe trouble breathing. 

Weather agencies have attributed the deteriorating air pollution to "stagnant weather conditions". They further stated that vehicle emissions and seasonal fires on agricultural lands was exacerbating the situation. 

The island nation that attracts tourists in large numbers from all over the world, is witnessing severe air pollution. The concentration of small and hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 in Bangkok was at 14 times the level recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), making it the sixth-worst in the world, according to IQAir, a Swiss air quality tracking platform.

On Wednesday, Air Quality Index (AQI) reading at 6pm was recorded at 166 on IQAir. Notably, long term exposure to PM2.5 can result in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and cancers.

"We have to intensify (efforts to tackle pollution) by encouraging people to work from home. For schools...they might have to avoid outdoor activities in order to prevent impacts on children's health," the department's director general said in a news conference.

Bangkok and its nearby provinces are expected to experience unhealthy air from Wednesday to Saturday due to stagnant weather conditions, BMA said on its Facebook page. "Particularly in areas where the air quality reaches levels that can or will impact health, it is advisable to cut down on or avoid outdoor activities," it added.

Residents complained of poor visibility and having trouble breathing.

"I feel my eyes burn. I can barely see when I have to ride a motorcycle against the wind," said Kanjanaporn Yampikul, a 51-year-old motorcycle taxi rider.

The WHO recommends that average annual readings of PM2.5 should be no more than 5 micrograms per cubic metre after changing its guidelines last year, saying that even low concentrations cause significant health risks. The level in Bangkok and the surrounding areas is currently 70.5 micrograms per cubic metre.

Every year, exposure to outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 4.2 million premature deaths, according to the WHO.

Meanwhile, Thailand authorities have expressed fears that the country will face a severe labour shortage as the Chinese travellers are also set to return to the country as tourists. 

Years of pandemic induced dry-spell forced corporations to lay off millions of workers int he tourism business in Thailand. The country now braces for a tourism surge and a simultaneous labour shortage. 

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