We are a group of citizen volunteers coming together to understand and combat the complex issue of air pollution, utilizing our diverse knowledge and expertise ranging from academic research to drive a social movement for clean air. We work with the private and public sectors and other civil society organizations in trying to bring about clean air for all in Thailand.
The severity of the “PM2.5” air pollution crisis in Bangkok and in other provinces in Thailand caused mass public concern on the potential health impact. This led active citizens, alongside academic experts, to join forces to research data in order to analysis this problem and publicly disseminate information on the root causes and solutions that would sustainably address this public health crisis within the Thai context.
Air pollution is the cause of 7 million deaths globally each year. Thailand is one of the Southeast Asian country that has been suffering from air pollution. Of the various air pollutants, particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, also known as PM2.5, pose the greatest risk to health. PM2.5 is so small that they can travel deep into the respiratory tract and even diffused into the blood stream. Once it enters the body, it cannot be removed. The effects of this include respiratory illness, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and, most dangerous of all, lung cancer. Recent research have also pointed to positive association between exposure to air pollution and other diseases such as kidney and liver diseases, rheumatic diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
Children are particularly more vulnerable to air pollution as they breathe more rapidly than adults and so absorb more pollutants. They also live closer to the ground, where some pollutants reach peak concentrations – at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.
There are different sources and concentration of air pollution that varies by region. The source of air pollution in Thailand are biomass burning (this includes agricultural burning, forest fires and open-waste burning), industrial pollution, vehicle pollution and transboundary haze. No substantive measures have yet been taken to resolve this public health problem at the point source.
Thailand is amongst the most polluted countries in Southeast Asia, ranking in as the fourth worst regionally, according to research undertaken by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. All of Thailand’s population live in areas where annual particulate pollution exceeds the WHO guideline. This is because Thailand had set its national air quality standards at levels that are double the threshold levels recommended by the WHO as being safe for human health. Furthermore, air quality ground monitoring capacity is still scattered and quite inadequate in certain parts of the country, thus limiting the ability to effectively manage this problem holistically.
The air pollution problem in Thailand has plateaued into a national crisis that demands an ongoing integrated approach to resolve it sustainably. This is what is needed to ensure that our lives, and those of our children and grandchildren, will have a chance of breathing clean air, and not be doomed to a life solely dependent upon the use of an air purifiers and face masks.