Chiang Mai residents told to stay home and avoid dust

Chiang Mai residentstold to stay home and avoid dust

6 March 2007

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Thailand — Chiang Mai residents, especiallythe elderly, children and people with respiratory problems, have been advised toavoid outdoor activities as the city’s air pollution has reached a dangerouslevel. The Pollution Control Department yesterday issued an air pollutionwarning after its air quality gauging stations in downtown Chiang Mai detected aharmful level of small dust particles.

The level of dust particles smaller than 10 microns was measured at 197.7microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/cu m) in the city yesterday, against anacceptable level of 120 ug/cu m.

”Chiang Mai’s air quality has reached a critical level since last Thursday.We recommend that residents stay home to avoid exposing themselves to small dustparticles. All burning activities are also prohibited to reduce the volume ofdust released into the air,” said the warning.

Residents of Lampang province should also protect themselves from the airpollution as the province also has a very high level of small dust particles,which was measured at 207.7 ug/cu m yesterday.

Other provinces with high dust levels include Chon Buri (159) and SamutPrakan (121), according to the department.

Dust particles smaller than 10 microns could enter sensitive internalbreathing organs and cause respiratory ailments.

”The increasing dust level is a result of widespread forest fires in thenorthern provinces and in neighbouring countries including Burma, Vietnam, Laosand Cambodia,” said Duangchai Duangthip, a specialist at the Chiang Mai-basednorthern environmental office.

Ms Duangchai said Thailand is currently in the peak period for forest fires,resulting in rising levels of small dust particles across the country, butChiang Mai is worst hit because it is surrounded by mountain ranges.

The situation has been aggravated by farming activities as many farmers stilluse the slash-and-burn technique to prepare their land for new crops, said MsDuangchai.

The air pollution crisis in the northern city of 1.66 million people ispredicted to continue for at least three months.

In response to the problem, the environmental office opened a call centre toupdate local air quality reports for residents and concerned agencies.Tambon-level emergency response units have also been set up to crack down onburning activities, which could worsen Chiang Mai’s air pollution.

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