|1||Warin Chamrap, Changwat Ubon Ratchathani|
|2||Sakon Nakhon, Sakon Nakhon|
|3||Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Phanom|
|5||Lap Lae, Uttaradit|
|7||Wapi Pathum, Maha Sarakham|
|10||Pai, Mae Hong Son|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Unhealthy|| 155 US AQI||PM2.5|
|PM2.5|| 63 µg/m³|
|Monday, Feb 22|
Unhealthy 161 US AQI
|Tuesday, Feb 23|
Unhealthy 161 US AQI
|Wednesday, Feb 24|
Unhealthy 159 US AQI
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 119 US AQI
|Friday, Feb 26|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 109 US AQI
|Saturday, Feb 27|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 116 US AQI
|Sunday, Feb 28|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 106 US AQI
|Monday, Mar 1|
Moderate 90 US AQI
|Tuesday, Mar 2|
Moderate 79 US AQI
|Wednesday, Mar 3|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 102 US AQI
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Nakhon Sawan is a city 250 kilometers directly north of Bangkok, with a population of over 114 thousand people, in a city with an area of 28km2. In 2019 it came in with a PM2.5 (particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less) rating of 23.9 µg/m³. This would classify it as being ‘moderately’ polluted over the course of that year, with the moderate ranking requiring a reading of PM2.5 anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 µg/m³ to be labelled as such. This reading also put it in at 39th place out of all 68 ranked Thai cities in 2019. In that same year, Thailand ranked number 28 out of all the most polluted cities in the world, showing that whilst its quality of air is not as severe as some countries (with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Mongolia coming in at the top 3), it still suffers from some fairly reduced air quality, and the same can be said of the city of Nakhon Sawan. Whilst its moderate rating is not terrible, it could certainly stand to improve.
Nakhon Sawan came in with three months out of the aforementioned year with a ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ rating, meaning that for certain demographics such as young children, the elderly and people with immune conditions, the air quality could be of risk for them to be exposed to over extensive periods of time. Seven of its months came in with the moderate rating, hence why the average turned out to be also moderate despite the highly polluted start to the year (as with much of Thailand, the first few months of the year, as well as at the very end, are often very polluted and can suffer from some exceptionally bad air pollution spikes). Of note though is that despite the moderate to bad pollution levels observed throughout most of the year, there were three months that actually fell within the World Health Organization’s target goal of 0 to 10 µg/m³, making the months of June through to august exceptionally clean in regards to their air quality. Once again this is not uncommon in Thailand, as during certain months of the year, seasonal changes as well as human activity lead to a significantly improved level of air quality and a big drop in pollution and smoke levels.
To reiterate, whilst the overall levels of pollution are not terrible, and 38th place is neither great nor bad (of note is that Bangkok, the capital and also a city with infamous levels of pollution came in at 48th place with a PM2.5 reading of 22.8 µg/m³) there are certainly months of the year that will be an outright danger to certain peoples health, as well as being of concern to everyone living there, with preventative measures being something that the citizens, or travelers, should certainly take into consideration. In order for a city in Thailand to be more polluted than Bangkok shows that the air quality can certainly have room for improvement.
As with all cities in Thailand, there are the big three main causes of pollution that occur in every city. Each city has its own unique variant with one of the three swaying the levels of pollution towards one particular offending source. With regards to Nakhon Sawan, forest fires as well as man made blazes seems to be the primary concern for its residents. The other two main causes besides this are vehicular emission, with the huge number of cars, motorbikes, trucks and lorries populating the roads, many of which still use diesel fuels despite increasingly tighter regulations. With the use of fossil fuels such as diesel come a number of pollution and air quality related issues.
Noxious fumes containing chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) are of chief concern when it comes to car exhaust and emission, although the list of chemicals and compounds can grow significantly when fossil fuels are involved. When used in a poor quality or older engines, the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels (as well as organic matter, which will be broached later) tend towards the creation of some very unwanted fine particulate matters and materials. From the exhaust fumes you would find black carbon, which is the main component found in soot. Besides coating roadsides with visually unappealing layers of black dust, they also have a number of negative health effects on any living creature that breathes them in, as well as having a direct effect on the environment and contributing towards phenomena such as global warming and climate change.
Back to Nakhon Sawan’s main pollutive problem, the burning of plants and other organic matter can also release black carbon into the atmosphere, along with volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), carbon monoxide (CO), furans and dioxins. Stubble burning, or crop burning can leave cities covered in haze and thick smoke, sometimes persisting for up to weeks depending on whether or not there is adequate rain or wind. Furthermore, there is pollution emission from the industrial sector, and of note is that the chemicals and pollutants produced from these different industries can accumulate in the air and undergo chemical reactions, creating more dangerous and harmful types of fine particulate matter.
As with all cities there are factories located around Nakhon Sawan, although they significantly less in number when compared to other cities. They still include industrial outlets such as cement factories and garment production lines, all of which require the combustion of fuels (usually fossil) to provide their energy. These yet again produce more volatile pollutants which can enter the atmosphere and add to the level of PM2.5 and PM10 that contributes to Nakhon Sawan's higher rating.
One source that isn’t mentioned and often goes under the radar of contributing to pollution levels, is construction sites. These also have importance in Nakhon Sawan (and many other places) due to a poorly maintained construction site being a large zone of dust production, with matter such as lead, microscopic dust and cement particles as well as microplastics all making their way into the atmosphere. These can also become a major issue when these particles accumulate too rapidly on roads, whereby they mix with all the other exhaust pollutants and are then sent skyward by the mass of cars constantly travelling over the accumulated dust. So, this would mean that besides the three main sources of pollution, construction site dust and cross contamination can also contribute quite heavily to increased pollution and particulate matter in the air.
Looking at the data provided over 2019, and as previously touched on, pollution in Nakhon Sawan was at its very worst during the months of January, February and March. They were all in the unhealthy for sensitive groups bracket, with the absolute worst month pollution wise being January, which came in with a reading of 53.4 µg/m³, more than double the yearly average (23.9 µg/m³). This is a trend for the whole of Thailand, with January often being the most polluted month, with slow improvements until June when the air quality often dramatically improves, often giving 3 or 4 months of respite, usually falling into the WHO’s target PM2.5 readings (0 to 10 µg/m³). So, the first three months of the year, and also April (with a PM2.5 reading of 32.1 µg/m³) were the worst of the year, with June July and august all being the cleanest in regards to air quality.
With a year round moderate rating, and even fairly high numbers of PM2.5 recorded in late 2020, with a reading of 43.7 µg/m³ taken on the 15th of November, it is safe to say that whilst there are certainly months where the air quality is very good, when the opposite occurs and the level of air safety plummets, there are a whole number of different health effects that can occur for people who breathe this air over longer periods of time, or indeed shorter times as well, with acute effects of breathing heavy smoke and fumes being instantly apparent. Exposure to excessive amounts of exhaust fumes can cause superficial problems such as temporary headaches, throat pain as well as irritation to the eyes and nose, but on a longer-term basis the negative aspects go up considerably.
PM2.5 has an extremely small size, and as such it is able to find its way into the deepest recesses of the human body, due to its ability to enter the bloodstream via the lungs. With the accumulation of these toxic particles, instances of cancer can rise, particularly lung cancer, and risk of heart attacks, stroke, heart diseases and a number of other cardiovascular ailments become apparent. Damage to blood vessels can occur, and for those whose bodies are still growing, developmental issues can become prominent, with decreased lung function and scarring possible, along with cognitive defects and even birth defects when an unborn child is exposed in utero to pollutants breathed in by its pregnant mother.
This is how far reaching the effects of pollution are, even in a moderately polluted city such as Nakhon Sawan. As such, it is in everyone’s interest to not only take preventative measures and keep their exposure levels low, but to also actively participate in lessening the amount of pollution we put into the atmosphere on an individual level.