The annual northern Thai smoke haze problem is with us again and a nationwide system of automated air quality monitoring stations provides information on up to 12 pollution parameters reported at two hourly intervals and available for public access. Reports can be generated as tables or graphs for one or more parameters or one or more stations.

If one asks the question “What is the pollution like this year”, while the answer could truthfully be “Not as one might like”, in fact there is a great variation over time and space in a region divided by mountain ranges and with urban and rural districts, forests and fields.

Most recording is done in urban areas, but let us firstly look at the most dangerous area, and restrict our attention to the two most reported parameters, namely PM10 particulate matter (smoke and dust) below 10 microns diameter expressed as micro grams per cubic meter ( ug/m3), and PM2.5 finer dust particles of greater concern because below this size they can enter the blood stream and carry pathogens to organs throughout the body. Until recently PM2.5 measurements were not available and the graphs show they make up the greater part of PM10 readings. So to put it simply :  If the PM10 reading is high beware. Health standards differ from country to country. In Europe PM10 > 50 is regarded as hazardous, in Thailand 120 is the level where statistics turn red.

Mae Moh PM10 & PM2.5 10-13 Feb 2016

(Note click on the image to see commentary and click again to magnify the image )

The Mae Moh district of Lampang has long been a place of controversy due to the presence of the huge EGAT Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand there which burns the dirtiest form of low grade coal known as lignite. In the Australian State of Victoria there is a vigorous public campaign to close down the large Loy Yang  brown coal fired power station because of its emissions of Carbon dioxide.

To be continued here