•   Thursday, 25 Jul, 2024
Thailand 10 million sought treatment for pollution related illnesses in 2023

Thailand 10 million sought treatment for pollution related illnesses in 2023

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Widespread farm burning and forest fires, notably in the country's north, often create a noxious smog at the beginning of the year.

The start of 2024 has already seen a jump in cases of pollution-related diseases compared to the previous year.

From 1.3 million in the first nine weeks of 2023, the number of people seeking treatment for pollution-related illnesses increased to 1.6 million at the start of 2024, AFP reported. Thailand has a population of about 72 million.

The cases include those with chronic conditions such as lung cancer, bronchitis, asthma, and heart diseases.Thailand must "prioritise... the impact of PM2.5 on public health", the NESDC said.

PM 2.5 refers to the level of tiny, hazardous particles - with diameters that are 2.5 micrometres or smaller - that can enter bloodstreams though the lungs.

Exposure to these micro-pollutants can cause burning and itching in the eyes and skin, as well as coughing and chest tightness.

These symptoms may be amplified for those who have pre-existing heart or lung conditions.

Some of Thailand's northern cities have been cited as among the world's most polluted by air quality monitoring websites. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Lampang have been given "unhealthy" ratings by monitoring platform IQAir.

Thailand's air pollution is a problem during the dry season - which typically runs from November to March - mainly due to seasonal burning from farmers clearing their sugarcane and rice fields.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin pledged to improve air quality. Lawmakers also endorsed a bill aimed at tackling the problem.

Last week, the country announced plans to deploy 30 aircraft across the nation for cloud seeding to induce rain and ease pollution.

In February, officials in Bangkok urged employees to work from home for two days as pollution levels in the capital city and surrounding provinces reached unhealthy levels.

Over the years, residents and environmental groups in Thailand have also filed lawsuits to demand government action against pollution.

Last July, about 1,700 people in Chiang Mai brought a case against former Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and two state agencies for failing to exercise their authority to reduce pollution in the north, which they say was shortening each of their lives by about five years.

In January this year, a Chiang Mai court ordered the government to come up with an emergency plan to improve air quality within 90 days.

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