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Thailand's Most Polluted Air Is In The North


sriracha john

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Mapguy,

Once again thank you for the 2 pdf files above. Especially the illustrated one - good depiction! I showed it to my missus and she better understood the problem (also had an illustration / size comparison of the alveolar areas - zoomed in - on a medical site). No, I'm not a doctor, I'm an engineer. And you can't fit a 2.5micron piece of c_ap in the end regions of these areas - full stop. She took that in and simply said, " I think I'll stay in more". I said, "What about the dust masks?" (yes, I know, not very effective against the small c_ap...). And silence persued... my saduak, hy jai yak, etc. were our past arguments.... Still waiting to see more people wearing masks tho'!!!!

Second point is the daily AQI figures - I'm a bit baffled.... see yesterdays here: http://www.pcd.go.th/AirQuality/Regional/default.cfm and check the numbers on this following site for "the standard" : http://www.pcd.go.th/info_serv/en_air_aqi.htm Maybe I'm a total idiot at math and estimated it incorrectly - but it doesn't add up right - note: it is not linear... here goes, if one looks at the AQI and PM10 numbers given on the sites, at first glance the AQI numbers don't seem "too bad". Correct me if I'm wrong, but the PCD is using the US EPA standards. I would of thought after the disastrous policies changes the last administration plowed through the bill voting concerning the EPA, that this standard would be one of the worst (I'm an American - BTW) standards to follow. Are these scales correct? Or, is this a whitewash from the US EPA that the Thai PCD has conveniently borrowed?

Your math is fine. The scales of the health standards can be a little difficult to understand, particularly how they are derived. Details on changing the PM<2.5 standard, to give an example are found in an attachment to this post. There's quite a bit of background and explanation that does shed some light on how standards generally are determined. The CAI Asia annual report is attached.

For the mother lode of information regarding clean air, go to www.cleanairnet.org.

In the meantime, re scales that are easy to use for interpretation, look at the last chart (in English, which shows the standards for the AQI and all of its components) on the first reference above in your post. That's what you refer to in looking at the daily reports. Look at the attached colorcoded map and bar graph.

The standards used in Thailand are very similar to US EPA standards. I can't comment on any particular Bush-era conspiracy regarding changing standards on air pollution. From all I can see there seems to be a consistent approach worldwide to making them tighter. Asian countries appear to lag generally in this respect. One thing I have noticed regarding particulate matter (PM) pollution standards is less concern for the impact of average annual exposure on health and increased concern about 24-hour exposure.

Annual_Report_2007_CAI_Asia.pdf

post-55418-1236741247_thumb.png

PM_Standards_Revision___2006___Particulate_Matter___Air___Radiation___US_EPA.pdf

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Mapguy,

Once again thank you for the 2 pdf files above. Especially the illustrated one - good depiction! I showed it to my missus and she better understood the problem (also had an illustration / size comparison of the alveolar areas - zoomed in - on a medical site). No, I'm not a doctor, I'm an engineer. And you can't fit a 2.5micron piece of c_ap in the end regions of these areas - full stop. She took that in and simply said, " I think I'll stay in more". I said, "What about the dust masks?" (yes, I know, not very effective against the small c_ap...). And silence persued... my saduak, hy jai yak, etc. were our past arguments.... Still waiting to see more people wearing masks tho'!!!!

Second point is the daily AQI figures - I'm a bit baffled.... see yesterdays here: http://www.pcd.go.th/AirQuality/Regional/default.cfm and check the numbers on this following site for "the standard" : http://www.pcd.go.th/info_serv/en_air_aqi.htm Maybe I'm a total idiot at math and estimated it incorrectly - but it doesn't add up right - note: it is not linear... here goes, if one looks at the AQI and PM10 numbers given on the sites, at first glance the AQI numbers don't seem "too bad". Correct me if I'm wrong, but the PCD is using the US EPA standards. I would of thought after the disastrous policies changes the last administration plowed through the bill voting concerning the EPA, that this standard would be one of the worst (I'm an American - BTW) standards to follow. Are these scales correct? Or, is this a whitewash from the US EPA that the Thai PCD has conveniently borrowed?

Your math is fine. The scales of the health standards can be a little difficult to understand, particularly how they are derived. Details on changing the PM<2.5 standard, to give an example are found in an attachment to this post. There's quite a bit of background and explanation that does shed some light on how standards generally are determined. The CAI Asia annual report is attached.

For the mother lode of information regarding clean air, go to www.cleanairnet.org.

In the meantime, re scales that are easy to use for interpretation, look at the last chart (in English, which shows the standards for the AQI and all of its components) on the first reference above in your post. That's what you refer to in looking at the daily reports. Look at the attached colorcoded map and bar graph.

The standards used in Thailand are very similar to US EPA standards. I can't comment on any particular Bush-era conspiracy regarding changing standards on air pollution. From all I can see there seems to be a consistent approach worldwide to making them tighter. Asian countries appear to lag generally in this respect. One thing I have noticed regarding particulate matter (PM) pollution standards is less concern for the impact of average annual exposure on health and increased concern about 24-hour exposure.

Mapguy,

I much prefer the table format and have been observing it for a couple of years. Don't care for the graphical one as the yellow background clashes with the white print / number - can't read it properly. Now, the numbers in my opinion, as in PM2.5 or 10 should be lower (for the 24 hr. period) - once again, I'm not a doctor but have seen enough people with a hacking cough to know they're going to have serious respiratory problems down the road. AND once again, lip service of the govt. - got the talk but no walk.... what action is actually being taken?

Edited by scotbeve
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Mapguy,

I much prefer the table format and have been observing it for a couple of years. Don't care for the graphical one as the yellow background clashes with the white print / number - can't read it properly. Now, the numbers in my opinion, as in PM2.5 or 10 should be lower (for the 24 hr. period) - once again, I'm not a doctor but have seen enough people with a hacking cough to know they're going to have serious respiratory problems down the road. AND once again, lip service of the govt. - got the talk but no walk.... what action is actually being taken?

Here are two charts that should be useful in generally understanding health effects. You might want to keep them handy.

The first is a simplified standards table. The second chart includes "health advisories" for various groups of people for AQI, PM<2.5, and PM<10. The bulk of Chiang Mai seasonal haze/smog is PM<2.5, for which Thailand has no standards and is not measured and reported in Asia.

Remember, the readings from measuring stations are limited by their number and location. As well, the particular sensitivity of people varies. Accordingly, objective data are only good up to a point and you have to factor in where you are and personal sensitivity to pollution.

PM_STandards___HEalth_Advisory.pdf

Easy_to_Read....pdf

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Mapguy,

A quote from your last reply:

The first is a simplified standards table. The second chart includes "health advisories" for various groups of people for AQI, PM<2.5, and PM<10. The bulk of Chiang Mai seasonal haze/smog is PM<2.5, for which Thailand has no standards and is not measured and reported in Asia.

This is what we were afraid of.... my pen rai it will blow away or be diluted within a couple of months.... BTW - it's very bad today in / around the Mae Sa Valley

Remember, the readings from measuring stations are limited by their number and location. As well, the particular sensitivity of people varies. Accordingly, objective data are only good up to a point and you have to factor in where you are and personal sensitivity to pollution. Yes, the region could do with anther 20 or so due to topographical differences (pockets, etc.)

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Smog raises lung disease death risk: study

Posted 4 hours 39 minutes ago

A US study has found that people who live in smoggy cities are up to 50 per cent more likely to die from lung disease than people living in rural areas with better air quality.

Scientists studied 500,000 Americans for 18 years and found that ground-level ozone is a key factor in respiratory deaths.

Previous research has linked spikes in ground-level ozone levels to heart attacks and severe asthma attacks, and has shown that long-term exposure to tiny particles of soot and dust found in smog is a risk factor for heart and lung disease.

This is the first study to look at the long-term health impacts of ozone, which is formed through the chemical reaction between sunlight and the nitrogen oxides spewed from vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions.

"Many studies have shown that a high-ozone day leads to an increase in risk of acute health effects the next day, for example, asthma attacks and heart attacks," said study co-author George Thurston of New York University's medical school.

"What this study says is that to protect the public's health, we can't just reduce the peaks, we must also reduce long-term, cumulative exposure."

The researchers estimate that the risk of dying from respiratory causes rises 4 per cent for every 10 parts-per-billion increase in exposure to ozone.

"World Health Organisation data indicates that about 240,000 people die each year from respiratory causes in the United States," said lead author Michael Jerrett of the University of California at Berkeley.

"Even a 4 per cent increase can translate into thousands of excess deaths each year.

"Globally, some 7.7 million people die from respiratory causes, so worldwide, the impact of ozone pollution could be very large."

- AFP

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Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can comment if that article is relevant for Northern Thailand.. As has been said before Chiang Mai doesn't suffer from that type of 'big city' / industrial pollution. Levels in the city are not significantly different from levels in the countryside; the whole North is affected primarily by smoke/particulate matter pollution during the dry/burning season, not NO2/Ozone ?

Edited by WinnieTheKhwai
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Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can comment if that article is relevant for Northern Thailand.. As has been said before Chiang Mai doesn't suffer from that type of 'big city' / industrial pollution. Levels in the city are not significantly different from levels in the countryside; the whole North is affected primarily by smoke/particulate matter pollution during the dry/burning season, not NO2/Ozone ?

Don't know either, WtK, but thought it of interest (esp. as comparisons with other cities here are often made) & also hope some more knowledgeable folk may comment.

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The third paragraph of the AFP article (Post #193), short as it is, appears to be relevant to Chiang Mai. Ground-level ozone exposure in Chiang Mai may not yet be the problem that particulate matter (PM<2.5 and PM<10) is. Can't really comment on ozone problems. Then again, the US. Environmental Agency has lately been more concerned about short (24-hour) exposures (or "spikes") in PM<2.5 than in long-term exposure that is reflected in annual averages.

It appears that the annual average pollution, as most of the graphs we have seen on TV over the past couple of years reflect, is not as meaningful as the short-range exposure when considering affects on health.

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Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me can comment if that article is relevant for Northern Thailand.. As has been said before Chiang Mai doesn't suffer from that type of 'big city' / industrial pollution. Levels in the city are not significantly different from levels in the countryside; the whole North is affected primarily by smoke/particulate matter pollution during the dry/burning season, not NO2/Ozone ?

I believe that you are right, the only pollution that in Chiang Mai is ever measured above recommended levels is PM<10. The other pollutants that are measured are: SO2, NO2, CO (1 hr), CO (8 hr) and Ozone. As far as I can see, none of these values have ever been above, or even near, recommended maximum levels.

Since there has been some discussion of recommended PM>10 levels in different countries, I enclose comparisons of the yearly and daily levels in some countries/areas:

post-20094-1236851642_thumb.jpg post-20094-1236851675_thumb.jpg

There has also been some discussion about measuring PM<2.5 vs PM<10. The only countries, that I have found, with a history of measuring PM<2.5 are USA and Canada. Measurements have relatively recently started in several other places, e.g. the EU, but there are very few standards/recommendations in place. There is an EU standard which will come into force as a "target" on 1 January 2010, and as a "limit" on 1 January 2015.

/ Priceless

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I have been doing further research regarding the impact on health, in particular of high concentrations of PM<2.5 fine particulate matter which makes up the bulk of Chiang Mai seasonal haze.

Interested in your comment concerning the <2.5 micron particles.

Do you have a distribution function showing particle size vs number

density ?

All I have seen quoted in the many previous posts is an integrated mass

density with an upper limit of 10 microns.

g

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I have been doing further research regarding the impact on health, in particular of high concentrations of PM<2.5 fine particulate matter which makes up the bulk of Chiang Mai seasonal haze.

Interested in your comment concerning the <2.5 micron particles.

Do you have a distribution function showing particle size vs number

density ?

All I have seen quoted in the many previous posts is an integrated mass

density with an upper limit of 10 microns.

g

Unfortunately the total concentration of PM<10 (i.e. "fine" particles <2.5 microns and "coarse" particles 2.5-10 microns) is the only thing at present measured in Thailand (and a lot of other countries). The focus on PM<2.5 as the main cause of long-term problems is based on fairly recent research. According to a WHO report ( http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90038.pdf ) a "ratio of 0.5 [between PM<2.5 and PM<10] is close to that observed typically in urban areas in developing countries" (page 277). Until such time as PM<2.5 is widely measured, I guess we'll just have to rely on this ratio (or maybe 0.4 - 0.6).

/ Priceless

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Smog and Forest Fire Situation Worsens in North

Thai Airways has temporarily suspended flights between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son because of severely limited visibility due to forest fires, dust, and pollution.

Air quality has been poor in Mae Hong Son after forest fires devastated an area of 2,700 rai. Small-dust particles in the province have been measured at more than twice their acceptable size, causing respiratory problems for residents and severely reducing visibility.

Thai Airways says it has canceled all flights between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son until the situation improves.

Meanwhile, special task force chief Colonel Phadung Yingpaiboonsuk says forest fires are currently burning in many locations in Tak province, especially in Mae Sod, Mae Rad, Pobpra, Aumpang, and Thasongyang district.

The task force has instructed the military to help extinguish the fires, and will ask for co-operation of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium.

In Payao province, airborne small dust particles also have been measured at twice the normal size. Payao governor Ruangwan Buanut has ordered water trucks from the provincial administration organization to spray public areas in an effort to reduce dust, and has ordered a public-information campaign on smog reduction and the dangers of air pollution.

Meanwhile, the forest fire in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani is now under the control of firefighters. The fire has damaged about 2,600 rai.

- TOC / 2009-03-13

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I have been doing further research regarding the impact on health, in particular of high concentrations of PM<2.5 fine particulate matter which makes up the bulk of Chiang Mai seasonal haze.

Interested in your comment concerning the <2.5 micron particles.

Do you have a distribution function showing particle size vs number

density ?

All I have seen quoted in the many previous posts is an integrated mass

density with an upper limit of 10 microns.

g

Unfortunately the total concentration of PM<10 (i.e. "fine" particles <2.5 microns and "coarse" particles 2.5-10 microns) is the only thing at present measured in Thailand (and a lot of other countries). The focus on PM<2.5 as the main cause of long-term problems is based on fairly recent research. According to a WHO report ( http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90038.pdf ) a "ratio of 0.5 [between PM<2.5 and PM<10] is close to that observed typically in urban areas in developing countries" (page 277). Until such time as PM<2.5 is widely measured, I guess we'll just have to rely on this ratio (or maybe 0.4 - 0.6).

/ Priceless

This ratio seems very reasonable even if conservative. I would suggest that the PM<2.5 concentration in the air in Chiang Mai during the nasty season is really at the top end and probably even higher due to the heavy input from smoke. This guesstimate is based upon a report of the average annual PM throughout the USA computed by the U.S. EPA. The agency found a 0.6 ratio in a huge sampling that would mute the statistical impact of fires such as those that strike Southern California.

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I wonder how many of our pollution crusaders are home with no air-con, working on lessening their carbon footprint? :D

I side with you on having no air-con, and with those you call 'pollution crusaders' on taking seriously the poor air quality we often have here in March and April.

Pretty much everyone takes the poor air quality in March and April seriously. :o

Well, not quite everyone; hence poor information, education and enforcement regarding pollution.

The excuse governmental of inadequate funding only goes so far. Indeed, without appropriate preventative activity, no one can afford to hire thousands of new forest fire fighters, let alone train them!! There has been a distinctive lack of appropriate long-range programs to alleviate a miserable seasonal situation that, while not completely manageable, does have some solutions to promote better public health and enhanced quality of life.

In the meantime, we see a display of fans blowing water vapor over flowers in central Chiang Mai, an occasional water truck watering down roadside dust, and one official giving his blessing to automobile caravans promoting an anti-pollution campaign!!!! Is he advised by the same PR crowd who encouraged fund-raising for the Night Safari through dinners serving entrees of wild game?!

In the meantime, agricultural burning continues and forest fires rage. The latest 24-hour report of Doi Suthep - Pui shows a spike to 12 fires, a high for the season thus far of fires large enough to be detected and reported by satellite observation.

post-55418-1236958198_thumb.jpg

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Holy crap! PM-10 was recorded at 215 on the 14th and 205 on the 12th. This is beginning to look very much like 2007. We almost have a month worth of PM-10 concentrations above 100. If it wasn't for our house that is currently being completed (and doesn't have a gate yet), we would already be 700 km south. The whole family is coughing and wheezing. I'll order a jumbo pack of N95 rated masks for next year and book a holiday in March. Just too bad that the kids have to go to school until almost the bloody end of this month.

Cheers, CMX :o

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Recent letter in The Bangkok Post:

CHIANG MAI SMOG

On March 2, 2009, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunakitti and his group visited Chiang Mai to observe the smog conditions. According to the Chiang Mai Mail, after acknowledging the negative impact on public health and tourism, he blamed local budget constraints for the problem. The paper also stated that the particle counts in Chiang Mai far exceed the so-called safety level.

One of the first responsibilities of government is to protect its citizens, including their health. Stating that there are budgetary constraints is incredibly short-sighted considering that the annual smog conditions in the North are costing Thailand billions in lost income and taxes from tourism plus the added cost to health care for treating the people, and there are many, suffering respiratory problems not to mention the cancer-causing effect on the Thai people.

The other aspect to this is the irresponsibility of the media. I have asked my Thai wife about the coverage and she said it is minimal. The Nation actually has more than the Bangkok Post, but it is still minimal. What I recommend to you is some investigative reporting. Get one of your reporters to do a series of articles on this subject. Believe me, you will increase your circulation. For example, a lot of the problem is blamed on the hill tribes and Burma. The fact is that, if you just drive around the countryside, you will see fires in many places.

I have a four-year-old son. At his school the students are kept in all day. I really worry about him and his mother. I am also concerned about all the Thai workers and their families that depend on tourism and of course about their health.

Here is my recommendation: Since burning is illegal, the people responsible should be fined and these events should be widely published. Once it starts sinking in that the law will be enforced, it should work as a preventative measure.

I told my wife that I wanted to make a video on the subject but she is totally against it. She is afraid there will be repercussions from the government. I had to agree. This is a very sad situation.

Harry

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Holy crap! PM-10 was recorded at 215 on the 14th and 205 on the 12th. This is beginning to look very much like 2007. We almost have a month worth of PM-10 concentrations above 100. If it wasn't for our house that is currently being completed (and doesn't have a gate yet), we would already be 700 km south. The whole family is coughing and wheezing. I'll order a jumbo pack of N95 rated masks for next year and book a holiday in March. Just too bad that the kids have to go to school until almost the bloody end of this month.

Cheers, CMX :o

Is this "N95 rated mask" specifically effective for the PM-10 pollution and if so where do you buy them ? Would appreciate that info.

Edited by lotus eater
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Holy crap! PM-10 was recorded at 215 on the 14th and 205 on the 12th. This is beginning to look very much like 2007. We almost have a month worth of PM-10 concentrations above 100. If it wasn't for our house that is currently being completed (and doesn't have a gate yet), we would already be 700 km south. The whole family is coughing and wheezing. I'll order a jumbo pack of N95 rated masks for next year and book a holiday in March. Just too bad that the kids have to go to school until almost the bloody end of this month.

Cheers, CMX :o

Is this "N95 rated mask" specifically effective for the PM-10 pollution and if so where do you buy them ? Would appreciate that info.

There's another thread covering this but I'll reiterate what was said. The pharmacy at the very end of Rachadamnoen Road (Thapae Gate end) a few doors down from the Black Canyon coffee shop has 3M masks with charcoal filters that meet the above mentioned specs. They certainly block out PM-10 particles and smaller than that also if I'm not mistaken. Just ask the very knowledgeable lady pharmacist (or her equally knowledgeable assistant) for them. Cost is around B150 for one mask if I remember rightly.

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Smog and Forest Fire Situation Worsens in North

Thai Airways has temporarily suspended flights between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son because of severely limited visibility due to forest fires, dust, and pollution.

Air quality has been poor in Mae Hong Son after forest fires devastated an area of 2,700 rai. Small-dust particles in the province have been measured at more than twice their acceptable size, causing respiratory problems for residents and severely reducing visibility.

Thai Airways says it has canceled all flights between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son until the situation improves.

- TOC / 2009-03-13

Haze halts Chiang Mai flights

Thai Airways International has cancelled flights between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son for safety reasons as dust haze continues to shroud the northern sky.

The national carrier made the decision as the dust clouds hang over the two provinces, creating some areas of zero visibility on the 35-minute flight, according to THAI staff.

The pollution situation, mainly caused by fires in forests and open fields, has become worse as winds have not been able to take the haze upward due to a new ridge of high pressure from China which has spread to northern Thailand over the weekend. As a result, the haze is expected to blanket Chiang Mai until the end of the month, said Chiang Mai's deputy public health chief Surasing Wisarurat.

Continued here:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/1343...ang-mai-flights

Edited by sriracha john
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I have been doing further research regarding the impact on health, in particular of high concentrations of PM<2.5 fine particulate matter which makes up the bulk of Chiang Mai seasonal haze.

Interested in your comment concerning the <2.5 micron particles.

Do you have a distribution function showing particle size vs number

density ?

All I have seen quoted in the many previous posts is an integrated mass

density with an upper limit of 10 microns.

g

Unfortunately the total concentration of PM<10 (i.e. "fine" particles <2.5 microns and "coarse" particles 2.5-10 microns) is the only thing at present measured in Thailand (and a lot of other countries). The focus on PM<2.5 as the main cause of long-term problems is based on fairly recent research. According to a WHO report ( http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90038.pdf ) a "ratio of 0.5 [between PM<2.5 and PM<10] is close to that observed typically in urban areas in developing countries" (page 277). Until such time as PM<2.5 is widely measured, I guess we'll just have to rely on this ratio (or maybe 0.4 - 0.6).

/ Priceless

This ratio seems very reasonable even if conservative. I would suggest that the PM<2.5 concentration in the air in Chiang Mai during the nasty season is really at the top end and probably even higher due to the heavy input from smoke. This guesstimate is based upon a report of the average annual PM throughout the USA computed by the U.S. EPA. The agency found a 0.6 ratio in a huge sampling that would mute the statistical impact of fires such as those that strike Southern California.

There have been several questions from time to time on this board regarding the impact of air pollution on health. The attached report published by the Health Effects Institute is significant in describing the research that is ongoing in Asia. It focuses on four Asian cities, one of which is Bangkok. Work is also being done in Chiang Mai.

HEI_PAPA_Results_from_Bnagkok__Hong_Kong__Shanghai_and_Wuhan.pdf

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I am surprised to see twelve downloads already. The HEI post above is absolutely not an easy read. One way to get through something like this, if it isn't your field, is to read the abstract, the introduction and the conclusion. How about the conclusion?

Conclusion

Effects of particulate pollutants in Asian cities

are similar to or greater than those observed in

most North American and Western European

cities in spite of large differences in concentrations;

These concentrations are the same ones that make up Thailand's AQI reported daily by PCD (the Pollution Control Department) that we often refer to.

similarly, effects of gaseous pollutants

in Asian cities are as high or higher.

Not surprising. There is much more energy consumption, and, in some cases, like Indonesia, horrific jungle burning that makes what goes on traditionally in this season in Chiang Mai, and Northern and Central Thailand generally, merely children playing with fire.

The methodology adopted and developed in the

PAPA study could be used for other countries

preparing to conduct air pollution studies.

Okay. Not a bad idea since scientific studies are sometimes inconsistent just on the basis of research methodologies used.

In addition, results from PAPA studies can be

used in Asian and other cities for health

impact assessment.

This is an ambitious but commonsensical claim since, while there is (recognized) variation in the components that make up air pollution from place to place, one can deal with that by plugging in new data relevant locally. For example, burning of vegetation seasonally here is much more a factor in air pollution than in some other places.

Finally, further efforts are

needed to understand the socioeconomic and

demographic factors that might modify the

effects of air pollution.

This is a interesting conclusion because it reflects upon the importance of local custom and experience as well as governmental policy and practice. Applied locally, it means you have to look at all those things that create dirty air beyond natural conditions (e.g., forest fires during the dry season), such as rice straw burning, burning forest for new agricultural land, neighborhood trash burning, burning of highway verge, the need for energy that created the soft coal-fueled Lampang electrical plant, Tuk Tuk exhaust, and so on, and so on. You also have to look at things like public health responsiveness to conditions (e.g., the recent emergency issue of face masks claimed by the government) and such intangibles as governmental officials who kick off anti-pollution campaigns in Chiang Mai with car parades!!! You have to look at information, education and enforcement of anti-pollution laws and regulations.

It is also a very ambitious challenge that, in my view, can only be met in very limited ways that, basically, to solve the problem, requires rather commonsensical solutions to problems that are already apparent without laughably attempting multivariant analysis to an impossibly large set of poorly quantifiable variables.

Edited by Mapguy
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From this week's Chiang Mai Mail:

From rubbish to saleable products without burning

To help reduce the burning of waste and the air pollution it causes in the north, Chiang Mai University’s Social Research Institute and other agencies have together set up the “From Waste to Value to Avoid Garbage Burning” project. Villagers are taught to transform rubbish into products for sale, not only to create income for villagers, but also to fight air pollution.

One of the 3 communities participating in the project’s pilot scheme is located in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong district. Plastic milk containers are converted into handbags, creating a new product out of the waste instead of burning it.

Before the project’s launch, some villagers had become ill from pollution caused by rubbish-burning; as a result, local people decided to take action and began sorting rubbish for recycling. Last year, the community saved more than 12,000 plastic milk containers and recycled them into several thousand handbags. This innovative way of reducing air pollution has also helped bring them extra income.

According to villager, Anong Woramitr, “Before this project, we usually disposed of milk containers by burning them at a site close to the community’s school area. These days, we don’t burn them anymore!”

Local people in all the participating communities are persuaded to use leftover materials to create practical and pretty arts and crafts; for instance, sawdust flower pots, newspaper baskets and backrest pillows made from cloth remnants. The project’s campaign has seen a sharp drop in trash burning, and has also helped stop conflicts amongst community members.

“Last year, we set a goal to reduce waste by 30%, or 30% of the burning. According to our survey, we’ve actually managed to decrease 47% of the overall burning. We aim to reduce waste to zero,” said Douangchan Chareanmuang, from CMU’s Social Research Institute.

This year, the project has expanded to the neighbouring province of Lamphun and another 19 Chiang Mai communities are also participating in order to reduce burning. (TNA)

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Priceless has added good information backed by statistics, but at the same time seems to be hiding behind year averages. In many cases the human body doesn't work on year averages. We know too much of anything is bad for you and moderation is often the key. Think alcohol. A few drinks a day is ok. But if you load up and binge drink too much at once it is unhealthy even if you stay under year averages. This seems a valid way to look at how air quality affects a person. In the north, you get a massive seasonal dose of bad air. These extremely high spikes of bad air could in fact be worse for a person than dealing with a little bit of pollution year round even if that is a higher average.

Another point. Besides the general air pollution being monitored, there is the local air pollution. You know, next door they are burning rubbish and plastic, burning wood all night to stay warm, or god forbid making charcoal. You get acute doses of very unhealthy air compounded onto whatever the general level is. No one seems to be monitoring this!

Final point. Many in the north live an open air lifestyle so they get the full brunt of harmful air. Comparatively people in Bangkok tend to live in filtered, AC environments day and night rarely exposed to outside air. If you look at the air quality in shopping malls, offices, and residences, the air people in Bangkok are getting is far better than the outside measurements indicate.

As a concerned resident of the north I welcome your rebuttal.

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Priceless has added good information backed by statistics, but at the same time seems to be hiding behind year averages. In many cases the human body doesn't work on year averages. We know too much of anything is bad for you and moderation is often the key. Think alcohol. A few drinks a day is ok. But if you load up and binge drink too much at once it is unhealthy even if you stay under year averages. This seems a valid way to look at how air quality affects a person. In the north, you get a massive seasonal dose of bad air. These extremely high spikes of bad air could in fact be worse for a person than dealing with a little bit of pollution year round even if that is a higher average.

Another point. Besides the general air pollution being monitored, there is the local air pollution. You know, next door they are burning rubbish and plastic, burning wood all night to stay warm, or god forbid making charcoal. You get acute doses of very unhealthy air compounded onto whatever the general level is. No one seems to be monitoring this!

Final point. Many in the north live an open air lifestyle so they get the full brunt of harmful air. Comparatively people in Bangkok tend to live in filtered, AC environments day and night rarely exposed to outside air. If you look at the air quality in shopping malls, offices, and residences, the air people in Bangkok are getting is far better than the outside measurements indicate.

As a concerned resident of the north I welcome your rebuttal.

Of course I agree with you that yearly averages don't show the whole truth. To quote the World Health Organisation (Air Quality Guidelines, Global Update 2005 http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90038.pdf ) "Based on known health effects, both short-term (24-hour) and long-term (annual) guidelines are needed for both of the PM indicators". ("Both of the indicators" meaning PM<10 and PM<2.5.)

My problem is trying to show some meaningful information out of a large-ish database of more than 24,000 observations, from the 10 measuring stations that I follow. I have however earlier posted graphs and tables trying to show the short-term variations as well as yearly averages. To show something about seasonal variations, I'll post a graph similar to one that I have posted several times before:

post-20094-1237605599_thumb.jpg

This one shows average monthly pollution levels for A/ Chiang Mai, B/ two of the "worst" places in Thailand (Samut Prakarn and Sara Buri) and C/ two of the "best" ones (Surat Thani and Khon Kaen). It is worth noting that the two "worst" provinces have values for about half of the year that are considerably higher than Chiang Mai's one-month peak during March.

One more exhibit, and I have to apologize for this one not being the easiest of reads. I have related it to the WHO's Air Quality Guidelines because they are, in my opinion, rather more informative than any of the national standards that I have seen, in that they have several levels. The table shows the percentage of observations from each station that falls within each of the four levels of pollution (well, five levels if you include "Outside of WHO Targets").

post-20094-1237606233_thumb.jpg

As you can see, Chiang Mai comes in fifth of the nine stations in the table for proportion of observations outside the WHO targets. Looking at it from the other end, Chiang Mai has the second highest percentage of observations within the WHO's Air Quality Guidelines, i.e. the best level (below which the WHO claims that no adverse effects have been proven).

As I have stated many times before, it is obviously so that Chiang Mai's air needs some serious improvement (I don't think anybody would argue that after the last few weeks :o ), but it is not in any way the worst in Thailand. Most of the year it is actually among the best.

/ Priceless

PS I have in no way been "hiding behind year averages" in my previous postings. As anybody will know, who has been reading my earlier posts and not just this thread, I have frequently discussed short term variations as well. However, out of consideration for the members trying to follow this subject, I have refrained from posting the 24,000 observations, 24 tables and ~130 graphs that are in my system. I think that I have managed to be quite sufficiently boring anyway :D

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Priceless has added good information backed by statistics, but at the same time seems to be hiding behind year averages. In many cases the human body doesn't work on year averages. We know too much of anything is bad for you and moderation is often the key. Think alcohol. A few drinks a day is ok. But if you load up and binge drink too much at once it is unhealthy even if you stay under year averages. This seems a valid way to look at how air quality affects a person. In the north, you get a massive seasonal dose of bad air. These extremely high spikes of bad air could in fact be worse for a person than dealing with a little bit of pollution year round even if that is a higher average.

Another point. Besides the general air pollution being monitored, there is the local air pollution. You know, next door they are burning rubbish and plastic, burning wood all night to stay warm, or god forbid making charcoal. You get acute doses of very unhealthy air compounded onto whatever the general level is. No one seems to be monitoring this!

Final point. Many in the north live an open air lifestyle so they get the full brunt of harmful air. Comparatively people in Bangkok tend to live in filtered, AC environments day and night rarely exposed to outside air. If you look at the air quality in shopping malls, offices, and residences, the air people in Bangkok are getting is far better than the outside measurements indicate.

As a concerned resident of the north I welcome your rebuttal.

Concerning the local air pollution that you mention: This is obviously true, and somewhat equivalent to the concept of "microweather" in meteorology. However, can you suggest a method for monitoring this, apart from installing hundreds of thousands of measuring stations, each with a qualified operator?

Concerning the "open air lifestyle" many in the north live: This may actually be (at least sometimes) advantageous, in that it has been shown (e.g. here: http://pt.wkhealth.com/pt/re/resp/abstract...#33;8091!-1 or http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=1212389 ) that e.g. the high incidence of lung cancer among women in northern Thailand may be largely due to indoor air pollution.

Things are unfortunately seldom as easy or commonsensical as they seem :o

/ Priceless

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Khun Priceless,

Many, many thanks for helping elevate, and inform, this discussion with an "epidemiological" perspective based on your research and quantitative data !

Some ideas I consider corollary to your analysis :

1. exacerbation by air-pollution of exiting disease precursors or processes vs. air-pollution as a general "stressor" on the entire physical system. in contrast to acute and specific disease processes (bronchitis, etc.) resulting directly from incidents of high-exposure.

2. age-related vulnerability : with age, with physical and immune system decline, increased risk for both exacerbation of existing conditiions and further compromise of "weak points" in the physical system, and triggering of acute disease processes.

3. immune-compromise vulnerability : the result of non-air related disease processes, like cancer, HIV, etc. may leave the immune system either permanently compromised, or compromised for extended periods of time.

4. possible interaction of air pollution with other environmental contaminants related to level of exposure (i.e., synergy, potentiation, catalysis, "trigger" effects).

5. lifestyle vulnerability : diet, health, alcohol and drug abuse, presence or absence of cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness, sedentary vs. active, etc.

Finally, I think what would be interesting ... as a way to "examine" a hypothesis that certain periods of high-exposure triggered long-term effects, even though yearly averages may be less than at toxic levels, would be to examine incidence data for certain specific diseases over time looking for periodicity (although this would be very difficult technically because of multiple confounding factors).

Hope you will persist in presenting your thoughts and research !

regards, ~o:37;

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According to that graph, the PM10 in CM never actually reaches the 120 standard over any month of the year. I don't know that much about the burning season, but do occasionally check the air qual and see much worse PM10 soaring well over 200, even 300 which lasts over great periods of time. If that graph is accurate, the burning season would seem to be no big deal or (less likely) too new a phenomenon to be fully reflected in the data. If it's true great, but I have difficulty accepting it since it goes against the anecdotal evidence I have accumulated thus far.

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According to that graph, the PM10 in CM never actually reaches the 120 standard over any month of the year. I don't know that much about the burning season, but do occasionally check the air qual and see much worse PM10 soaring well over 200, even 300 which lasts over great periods of time. If that graph is accurate, the burning season would seem to be no big deal or (less likely) too new a phenomenon to be fully reflected in the data. If it's true great, but I have difficulty accepting it since it goes against the anecdotal evidence I have accumulated thus far.

I am afraid that you have not understood the graph, and that you are also misinformed.

The graph shows the monthly averages (i.e. the average of all observations for e.g. March) over the period 2000-2009. There have actually been three individual months with an average pollution (PM<10) level over 120 µg/m3 in Chiang Mai:

March 2007: 161.7 µg/m3

March 2004: 153.9 µg/m3

February 2005: 120.6 µg/m3

Since the values for February and March are normally well below 120, the monthly averages for each of these months come out below that value.

As for peak values of "even 300 which lasts over great periods of time", there is only one recorded instance with a value of 300 or more since 1 January 2000. This was 14 March 2007 with a value of 303.9 µg/m3. There are also 11 instances with a measured value of 200 µg/m3 or more, not counting the 303.9 value.

Again on average, Chiang Mai records 15.2 days per year with a PM<10 pollution level in excess of 120 µg/m3. This rather high average is largely due to 2007 with 30 days and 2004 with 39 days. The median value is only 9 days.

/ Priceless

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Khun Priceless,

Many, many thanks for helping elevate, and inform, this discussion with an "epidemiological" perspective based on your research and quantitative data !

Some ideas I consider corollary to your analysis :

1. exacerbation by air-pollution of exiting disease precursors or processes vs. air-pollution as a general "stressor" on the entire physical system. in contrast to acute and specific disease processes (bronchitis, etc.) resulting directly from incidents of high-exposure.

2. age-related vulnerability : with age, with physical and immune system decline, increased risk for both exacerbation of existing conditiions and further compromise of "weak points" in the physical system, and triggering of acute disease processes.

3. immune-compromise vulnerability : the result of non-air related disease processes, like cancer, HIV, etc. may leave the immune system either permanently compromised, or compromised for extended periods of time.

4. possible interaction of air pollution with other environmental contaminants related to level of exposure (i.e., synergy, potentiation, catalysis, "trigger" effects).

5. lifestyle vulnerability : diet, health, alcohol and drug abuse, presence or absence of cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness, sedentary vs. active, etc.

Finally, I think what would be interesting ... as a way to "examine" a hypothesis that certain periods of high-exposure triggered long-term effects, even though yearly averages may be less than at toxic levels, would be to examine incidence data for certain specific diseases over time looking for periodicity (although this would be very difficult technically because of multiple confounding factors).

Hope you will persist in presenting your thoughts and research !

regards, ~o:37;

Thank you for your kind words. I would however not categorize what I have been doing as "research". I have merely tabulated available data and performed some, rather elementary, statistical analysis of it.

As to your questions, I unfortunately have no medical background and cannot really comment on them. From what I have found and read (and understood?) on the 'net, it seems that your implied assumptions are correct. It has been pointed out that groups with high susceptibility to problems, caused by Particulate Matter (PM) air pollution, include the very young, the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. It also appears that PM pollution can interact with, and be exacerbated by, other pollutants and things like life style.

As to your final point about further research, I would be most interested in reading the results of such research. Unfortunately I am no way qualified to participate in such studies, fun as it probably would be.

I can strongly recommend the WHO document that I have referred to earlier in this thread, and many times before that( http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90038.pdf ). The reason that I like it is that:

- WHO is reputable organisation

- The report is comparatively recent (2005)

- It is not based on an individual research project, but rather on a (seemingly) comprehensive overview of most available research, from different institutions and parts of the world.

/ Priceless

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