Northern residents suffer haze-related respiratory illness

Northern residents suffer haze-related respiratory illness

10 March 2010

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Thailand —  The heavy seasonal haze enveloping Thailand’s eight upper northern provinces has seriously affected locals, as nearly 100,000 residents are experiencing respiratory illness due to the smog and particulate-laden atmosphere.

The Public Health Ministry assessed that smog situation in the North is likely to worsen.

The number of haze-related patients without serious condition, as reported by government hospitals in the eight provinces, currently stands at 96,040.

Responding to the health problem, the ministry initially distributed over half a million masks to provincial health authorities. The 520,000 masks were being further distributed through the haze-blanketed provinces, Deputy Public Health Minister Narisara Chawaltanpipat said on Wednesday.

The eight provinces affected by haze and dust particles are Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Phayao, Nan, Phrae, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son.

Ms Narisara explained that patients already having heart disease and respiratory problems are highly at-risk groups vulnerable to further negative effects from the smog particles.

She said that most people experiencing respiratory difficulties initially tend not to see doctors for checkups. If the air pollution from haze continues, the number of patients receiving medical treatment is likely to increase.

Therefore, the ministry instructed local doctors and nurses to prepare medicines, and other medical equipment in case of emergency needs.

Ms Narisara advised local residents to closely monitor the air pollution situation and wear masks before going outside because the less than 10 microgramme dust particles can pass into the lungs. Large accumulations of the smog particulate may cause lung cancer.

Meanwhile, levels of the dust and haze particles covering Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai continued to exceed the safety limits.

Although it rained in Chiang Mai Wednesday morning for 30 minutes, it relieved air pollution only slightly.

The Chiang Mai provincial seat recorded a level of dust particle at 162.2 microgrammes per cubic metre and the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai reported the country’s highest level at 292.7 microgrammes.

In Chiang Mai, a government hospital set up a special clinic only for patients facing haze-related respiratory ailment in early March.

About 2,000 people with respiratory problems seek medical treatment per day, according to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the royal artificial rain-making operations centre in Chiang Mai is scheduled to make artificial rain in Lampang on Friday.

The chemically-induced rain will relieve drought in 13 districts of Lampang and will reduce smog in the province, said Governor Supakit Boonyaritthipong.

All districts of the province are now disaster zones affected by drought, the governor said.

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