Does Bangkok have air pollution?
Bangkok regularly has air pollution that is unhealthy for children, the elderly and people with respiratory and other health problems. At times it also crosses into unhealthy territory for the public at large.
Despite being a long-standing problem, Bangkok’s air pollution has only recently begun to enter the public’s consciousness. This awareness was sparked by some prolonged hazy spells that tested the public’s patience and pushed schools, organizations and individuals to start testing the air themselves. By January 2019, there were already more than 100 schools using air sensors. The growth in these non-governmental air monitoring stations gave more and more parents and Bangkok citizens real-time pollution data for the first time, revealing how poor the city’s air quality was.
The growing awareness led authorities to issue an unprecedented order to close nearly 450 schools for three days in January 2019 because of serious pollution that had persisted for weeks.
As of November 2019, more than 1,000 non-governmental sensors are providing granular air quality data in Bangkok.
How bad is Bangkok’s air pollution?
While Bangkok can feel uncomfortably polluted because of fumes from heavy, slow-moving traffic, its air isn’t as bad as some other Asian capitals like Delhi, Beijing and Hanoi. It still isn’t healthy, though; Bangkok’s overall average air quality in 2017 and 2018 was moderate: 27.6 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³) in 2017 and 25.2 µg/m³ in 2018.
Air quality tends to be worse in winter months. In 2018, January and February saw averages of 41.2 µg/m³ and 48.6 µg/m³ respectively that were more than four times the World Health Organization guideline.
The good news is that Bangkok has more monitors reporting real-time air quality data than any other city in the world: more than 1,000. This has enabled residents to get timely, accurate and hyperlocal information about the air they are breathing – and take measures to protect themselves, such as wearing a mask or reducing outdoor exercise.
How does Bangkok air quality compare to Beijing?
Beijing’s air quality is worse than Bangkok’s. In 2018, Beijing ranked no. 122 on the IQAir AirVisual World City Pollution Ranking. Bangkok came in lower at no. 498, out of more than 3,000 cities. Beijing had a 2018 annual average PM2.5 concentration of 50.9 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³), twice the Bangkok annual average of 25.2 µg/m³.
Where does Bangkok’s pollution come from?
Bangkok’s pollution mainly comes from vehicle fumes, construction, factories, and the burning of waste and crops. The pollution is made worse due to seasonal changes in weather patterns, with a phenomenon called thermal inversion that traps the pollution close to the ground, and little wind to disperse it.
How can Bangkok’s air pollution be reduced?
Raising public awareness of air pollution is a key step in solving the problem. Recent and easy access to air quality data has enabled individuals to take remedial action to protect themselves and advocate for better air. At the same time, the U.N. Environment Programme and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition are working with Thai authorities to tackle air pollution through initiatives such as raising vehicle emissions standards and turning Bangkok’s ubiquitous tuk-tuks (motorized rickshaws) electric.
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