Tourists May Feel Effects as Bangkok’s Air Quality Hovers at “Unhealthy” Levels

Feb 16, 2019

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A toxic haze fell over Bangkok toward the end of 2018 due to a combination of pollutants in the air. By the end of January, the city’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reached an “unhealthy” level, leaving some to question just how safe it is to visit Thailand.

Ideally, AQIs lie below the 100 level, but on January 30, Bangkok’s AQI reached 200 micrograms per cubic meter, according to World Air Quality Index. Just one microgram per cubic centimeter more and the AQI would’ve been categorized as “very unhealthy” rather than “unhealthy.”

For reference, according to World Air Quality Index, Kuala Lumpur has a level 53 AQI, North Singapore has a level 68 AQI, Hong Kong has a level 53 AQI and Jakarta has a level 53 AQI at the time of publication. These cities all currently fall within an acceptable, “moderate” level of air quality.

AirNow describes an “unhealthy” AQI as a scenario where “everyone may begin to experience health effects” and “members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”

The potential health implications associated with poor air quality can be unsettling for travelers. TPG’s Lori Zaino is currently in Bangkok, and got a first-hand feel for the air quality there. Zaino reported that about 15 to 20 percent of locals seemed to be wearing masks. Zaino also said that her hotel, the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn, was not readily offering up masks to guests, but upon calling the front desk, the hotel was able to provide masks for her.

As for how the air quality has affected Zaino on the trip, she described that the difference is noticeable but not detrimental. “I can tell it’s more polluted than usual, but I’m not struggling to breathe. My eyes are a bit irritated, and I find myself clearing my throat,” she added.

Currently, there is no travel advisory for the region from the US Department of State specifically regarding the air quality. However, Thailand does have a Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions advisory due to civil unrest.

With the potential for high-level air pollution, though, travelers should consider protecting themselves from the poor air quality by refraining from partaking in prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion or by using a mask that will help to keep particulate matter out of the respiratory system. You can also check a city’s AQI in real time before your next trip.

H/T: The Telegraph

Featured by Artit_Wongpradu/Getty Images.

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