‘It’s very hard for me to breathe lately’: Thick smog covers Bangkok and hospitalises thousands

Nearly 200,000 people in Thailand have been admitted to hospital because of air pollution this week, officials have said.

The country’s capital, Bangkok – home to an estimated 11 million people and one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations – is currently shrouded in a thick haze.

The toxic air is an unpleasant yellow-grey mix of vehicle fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from agricultural burning.

What is the most polluted part of Thailand?

The public health ministry said 50 districts in Bangkok on Wednesday 8 March recorded unsafe levels of the most dangerous PM2.5 particles, which are so tiny they can enter the bloodstream.

Levels dropped on Thursday, but remained well above World Health Organization guidelines.

The situation was worse in the northern city of Chiang Mai, in an agricultural region where farmers burn crop stubble at this time of year.

Around midday local time, the popular tourist destination was ranked the third-most polluted city in the world by monitoring firm IQAir.

What are the health effects of Thailand’s polluted air?

More than 1.3 million people have fallen sick in the kingdom since the start of the year as a result of air pollution, with nearly 200,000 admitted to hospital this week alone, according to the public health ministry.

Children and pregnant women should stay indoors, urged ministry doctor Kriangkrai Namthaisong on Wednesday.

Reports also suggest that nurseries run by the city have set up special “no dust rooms” with air purifiers to protect young children, as well as checkpoints to monitor vehicle emissions.

Anyone going outside should wear a high-quality N95 anti-pollution mask, he added.

“I used to wear just one layer of mask but nowadays I have to put two layers on otherwise I wouldn’t be able to stand the pollution,” says local bike taxi driver, Amnaj Saosingha.

During another pollution peak in late January and early February, city authorities urged people to work from home.

A spokesman for Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt – elected last year with promises to improve the city’s environment – said they would not hesitate to issue another similar order if the situation got worse.

Watch the video above to witness Bangkok’s thick blanket of air pollution.

Video editor • Hannah Brown


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