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You Can See the Air in Bangkok (and It’s Not Pretty)

You Can See the Air in Bangkok (and It's Not Pretty)

Can Drones Help Thailand through the Haze?

The capital of Thailand has a problem. Bangkok’s air pollution is bad—like really bad. In fact, the air quality is so poor there that many of its residents are now donning air-filtering face masks as part of their daily routine. It’s so bad that earlier this year a thick smog blanketed the city, causing city-dwellers and even their pets to suffer.

How Bad Is It?How Bad Is It?

Bangkok’s air quality is so bad that . . .

  • The air there is often visible, with a thick, hazy, foggy appearance.
  • Due to high demand, pharmacies and convenience stores reported a recent shortage of the N95 facemasks that commuters and pedestrians wear to help filter the air they breathe.
  • The Public Health Ministry warned people to stay indoors, especially those with respiratory or heart ailments.
  • More than 400 schools had to be closed on some of the worst days.

How Bad Is itHow Did It Get This Bad?

Air pollution in Bangkok has several causes, including:

  • The almost 10 million diesel cars and buses that crowd city streets
  • Less-than-stringent or unenforced air-quality regulations
  • Slash-and-burn farming practices in surrounding areas
  • Coal-powered factories and power plants
  • Ongoing construction throughout the city
  • Still, dry weather conditions

These factors and more have led to increased levels of PM2.5, the microscopic dust particles that are small enough to enter the bloodstream and travel to every bodily organ. While “safe” levels of PM2.5 range from 25 to 50 mcg (micrograms per cubic meter of air), Bangkok’s have reached 95 mcg or higher.

And it’s not just a problem in Bangkok, or even Thailand. It’s estimated that 92% of Asia’s population face significant risk to their health due to air pollution.

Health IconWhat Are the Health Impacts?

Air pollution can negatively affect human health in many ways:

  • Acute respiratory infections and ailments, like asthma, bronchitis, COPD and lung cancer
  • Irregular heartbeat, heart disease, stroke
  • Headaches, learning problems

Rain Cloud iConMaking It Rain

While stricter enforcement of air-quality regulations is needed, Bangkok is fighting pollution in a unique way—with water. Trucks and rooftop cannons routinely spray water through the air to help clear air pollution. Drones are being used to spray a mixture of water and nonharmful chemicals to clear the air in parks and smaller areas. Even cloud-seeding planes that force rain have been employed to help clear the air.

However, these methods are only a short-term solution to a complex, difficult problem. And they do nothing to help reduce the levels of PM2.5. So the government is also looking at shutting down the most polluting factories, replacing diesel-fueled public buses and boats, updating vehicle emissions standards and placing controls on construction sites.

Did You Know

comment_2While Thailand may seem far away, it’s important to realize that air pollution is a pervasive problem that can ultimately impact everyone. What steps do you take to help ensure your family stays safe from the effects of air pollution? Please share them with other readers in the comments below.


Do you consider air quality when making travel plans?

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Vicky Mitchem
Vicky Mitchem
4 years ago

As someone who has had 2 major lung surgeries, I have to be very careful of what the air quality is like. It makes me wonder what effect this is having on the young children who breath that air everyday and what the cancer/other disease rates will look like as they get older.

DeDe Murphy
DeDe Murphy
4 years ago

If they have no wind to move the stagnant polluted air can they put up some electric or solar turbines to move the pollution out? Or some big vacuumed to suck in the air and scrub it before releasing it?

4 years ago
Reply to  DeDe Murphy

DeDe, that would be a great idea! Let’s hope that something like that is in the works, if it’s not already in use now.

Kate Mckinney
Kate Mckinney
4 years ago

Isn’t parts of Mexico this bad I thought I read something about it a few years ago

Mindy Jollie
Mindy Jollie
4 years ago

That’s crazy that people in Bangkok have to wear face masks when they go outside or travel. I imagine having such thick visible air can also make visibility a big issue for ships or airplanes. Having a transmission haze meter is probably an important tool for measuring air haze and navigation.