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Asia Minute: Bangkok Battling Unusual Air Pollution


Air pollution has been an increasing problem for nearly two months in Thailand’s capital. Conditions have become so bad that public schools closed for more than a week, and top government officials were summoned to court to testify about it.

It’s been another rough week for air pollution in Bangkok.

The main culprit: fine dust particles known as PM 2.5 – particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less. That’s about thirty times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The tiny particles can come from everything from auto exhaust fumes and factory pollution to crop burning and construction. 

The World Health Organization warns they contribute to health trouble from cancer to heart disease.

PM 2.5 has been a concern for years across the Indo Pacific — especially in China and India.

But this recent round of pollution has been unusual for Bangkok — as levels rose to a point the WHO calls “unhealthy.” By the end of the week, conditions had eased slightly, but forecasters expect pollution levels to rise again early next week.

The government has tried everything from closing some factories to seeding clouds to stimulate rain. The efforts have been largely unsuccessful.

This week the governor of Bangkok and the Prime Minister of the country were summoned to court to answer a civil suit accusing them of negligence for not doing enough.

The Bank of Thailand warns lingering pollution could hurt tourism.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce says if the smog crisis is prolonged, financial damages could approach half a billion dollars a month.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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