PM 2.5: A Silent Killer You Never Underestimate

Life in big cities surely is full of fun and entertainments with 24-7 facilities to ease our lives. There are transportations available for you for almost 24 hours such as subway, skytrain, and taxis. In Thailand, roads and streets in cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket are always busy with many personal cars and public transportation vehicles communicating, which creates a picture of lively cities but can be rushing in the meanwhile. However, this civilized lifestyle might give us something unpleasant or even unhealthy in turn such as traffic jams, noise pollution from cars honking on crowded roads, and air pollution from smoke and dust PM 2.5 as well.

civilized lifestyle at Bangkok

You might notice that there are certain days in those central cities, especially Bangkok, when you wake up in the early morning to find something appearing as big smoke covering the whole sky. Sometimes it even blocks the morning sunlight, so you cannot feel the warmth and coziness in the morning. Moreover, when your noses begin to breathe it in, you might find it not so friendly to your respiratory system. This big smoke, however, is not fog or a bunch of soft clouds floating lower. It is, according to the Meteorological Department, specified as PM 2.5. 

PM2. 5 in Bangkok comes directly from vehicles in the city

What is PM 2.5 ?

PM 2.5, which stands for particulate matters 2.5, or fine particles refers to any particles spreading all over the air with less than two and a half micrometres (2.5 microns) of diameter. Micrometer or micron is a unit used to measure distance as inches and meters are. With this width of diameter, PM 2.5 is particles smaller and thinner than human hair is, causing annoyance and even health issues to people who are surrounded with and breathing it in. 

Bangkok city is covered with heavy smog.

According to WHO, particulate matter 2.5  is categorized in group 1 of oxidants, which can cause cancer to people who are heavily exposed to it. More importantly, based on the report on death rates from the World Bank in 2004, the statistics reveal that more than 50,000 people in Thailand were dead of air pollution as a main cause, resulting in economic impact including medical expenses for treatments.   

What Causes PM 2.5 ?

As mentioned, PM 2.5 can be mainly found in big cities with civilization and high growth rate; hence, it can be implicitly inferred that causes of this air pollution are resulted from development and prosperity of those cities as well. As the more rapidly a city is growing, the more people are moving in and settling down when they can fetch many opportunities in careers and life. The rate of population growth in Bangkok in 2021 is 1.75% increasing from 2020, having around 10 million people dwelling in. This, accordingly, possibly leads to construction sites for new buildings, more cars communicating on the roads, and more factories rising up as jobs needed. 

construction sites for new buildings, more cars communicating on the roads, and more factories rising up as jobs needed.

Not only cities in Thailand but also many large, scenery towns all over the world are encountering this air pollution and producing it in the meantime. Therefore, PM 2.5 is mainly caused by the following factors.

  • Burning fuels from heavily communicating vehicles. This burning, according to experts in mechanics, is called incomplete combustion, causing a lot of smoky exhausts with tiny particles floating in the air.   
  • Construction sites. As Thailand is a developing country, there are many ongoing construction sites such as new skytrain lines, dwellings, and office buildings in Bangkok. Moreover, in 2020, according to the Department of Highways, totally 7 projects of pipeline in Bangkok were operated, resulting in the considerable amount of dust from drilling spreading over the air.
  • Electrical production and industries. The areas where particulate matter 2.5 can be caused in the highest level are industrial estates as big clouds of smoke are released into the air daily, generating air pollution including the tiny particles to residents in those areas.
  • Burning agricultural fields and forests. In some towns, where agriculture is a key job for people, farmers usually burn their fields when the harvesting season is over for preparing new lots of crops. This activity seems ordinary to them but it causes smoke with particulate matters 2.5 covering the sky.
monitoring of cars with black smoke

However, many governments have proposed laws controlling release of these particles. Speaking of the Thai protocols for manipulating the PM 2.5 amount, according to the Pollution Control Department, more strict monitoring of cars with black smoke has been conducted since October 2019. Control of burning fields for agricultural purposes is also seriously implemented. Furthermore, on days with an excessive rate of the silent-killing particle’s amount in Bangkok, all construction sites must pause their operations to reduce the amount of it. 

cars with black smoke has been conducted

How Can PM 2.5 Be Dangerous to Our Health ?

Due to the quality of being smaller and lighter than any other particles, PM 2.5 can stay in the air longer than the others do. With the very least width of diameter, it is able to be inhaled through the nose, bypassing and piercing into lungs and respiratory organs. It can even infiltrate into the circulatory system, causing some following health issues. 

  • Vision trouble and physical issues such as eyesore, cataract, and pink eyes. Although it is invisible to our eyes, PM 2.5 contains various toxic compounds such as  arsenic, lead, nitrates, sulphates and carbon. These substances can piece into our vulnerable eyes, causing the issues mentioned.
  • Short-term health issues such as runny nose, shortness of breath, and coughing. As for some people who have hay fever, this matter is your worst enemy you need to avoid as it can worsen and amplify your symptoms. 
  • Lung and heart diseases. particulate matter 2.5 is a silent executor for long-term exposure to it as the particles are able to enter into the circulatory system. It is proved to worsen lung and heart disease such as asthma, heart attack, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.  
PM 2.5 is able to be inhaled through the nose, bypassing and piercing into lungs and respiratory organs.

According to a study in Journal of the American Medical Association, every 10 micrograms per cubic meter that increases leads to risk of cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality in the rates of 6% and 8%, respectively. For this reason, knowing the density of PM 2.5 in our areas, as well as being aware of how to protect ourselves from fine particles could be recommended for residents with high exposure. 

Air Quality Index

Air Quality Index or AQI is an indicator reporting how good of air quality is in a certain area. According to the US Air Quality Index, the air quality is categorized into 5 levels, running from 0 to 500 of value. The following presents how an area is rated with PM 2.5 density. 

Air Quality PM 2.5
Air Quality PM 2.5

How to Protect Ourselves from PM 2.5

Even though PM 2.5 seems to be a silent and invisible danger to our health, there are still many useful and practical ways to protect ourselves from the fine particles. Here are some basic practices for preventing diseases and health issues from the silent killer. 

  • Try to stay indoors just not to expose yourselves to the particles. However, for people who are living on a higher floor, make sure the doors and windows in your room are always shut down when the particles in your area are excessive (yellow level upwards). ASQ hotels or Staycation could be recommended for indoor activities.
  • Avoid outdoors activities. This tip helps you create less exposure to the air pollution, especially PM 2.5, but on a clear-sky day, make sure you don’t miss those outdoors activities you are keen on. 
  • Wear a standardized and specially designed mask for PM 2.5 such as N95 mask. Due to the width of diameter of this micro particle, the N95 mask would be the best equipment which can protect yourselves from inhaling the particles. However, if you feel uncomfortable using it, other disposable masks are also applicable.  
  • Regularly wipe your face with baby tender or a wet napkin. This action helps remove all dirts on your face including PM 2.5 in order not to breathe it in from your skin.
  • Wear sunglasses when going outdoors to protect your eyes. As eyes are essential for living, make sure you take best care of them for long-term use. 
  • Apply an air purifier within your residence. If your area is dense with PM 2.5, an air purifier could be another best way to purify your residence. 
  • Often check out the PM 2.5 level in your area using applications such as AirVisual, Air4Thai. 
How to Protect Ourselves from PM 2.5

Recommended Applications for Real-time AQI

Viewing a clear atmosphere sometimes cannot assure how clear it actually is. Especially in the winter season, you may be confused when seeing foggy sky; is that cool beautiful cloud or pollution? This is not yet an age-related macular degeneration or something, but it’s a trick of that dangerous PM 2.5.

Nowadays life is not that difficult anymore. Applications on the phone can tell all real-time information you need to know about the air you are breathing in. Just open a PM 2.5 application and insert your location or wherever on earth you want to check the air quality index, then you know, one, two or layers of face masks you need to wear before going outdoors. If you’re planning to move to Thailand, make sure that you have installed these apps with preparation to get in. These are recommended apps, available on both IOS and Android, to make your life easier than ever.

  • AirVisual
  • Air4Thai
  • Air Matter
  • Plume Air Report

Who Can Cover Our Health from PM 2.5 ?

If you are one of the people who are not sure that you can safely protect yourselves from PM 2.5, why don’t you just let someone take care of you instead? This does not mean anyone with special care for you 24-7, but we are referring to when you are suffering from health issues caused by the particle and wanting to be insured by a good health plan for medical expenses. Here we present a newly released plan from Dhipaya Insurance Co, which covers diseases mainly resulting from exposure to PM 2.5. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The following are the benefits from this plan. 

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)/Last stage lung diseases
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Includes cover for Strokes
  • Advanced Cancer
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting :CABG
  • Kidney Failure
  • Liver Insufficiency
  • Organ Transplant Stem cell or Bone Marrow
  • Coma
  • Total Permanent Disability

For more information, the plan has 3 coverages: 50,000THB, 100,000THB, and 200,000THB. More importantly, this plan insures foreigners who have been living in Thailand for more than a year. If you are the one who is under the conditions, just make sure you have the passport and work permit. Kindly contact our Facebook Page by just clicking Chat Now for more detailed information. 

PM 2.5 Insurance

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