Nonthaburi is a state in Thailand located just above the capital city Bangkok. It is one of the most densely populated provinces after the previously mentioned capital, with some 1.2 million people living there as of 2018, all living in an area of 622km2. In terms of its levels of pollution, its cities come in fairly highly ranked in terms of all the most polluted cities in Thailand, although they were lacking the more destructive levels of pollution that the upper echelons of polluted cities suffered from. All three of its registered cities came in with moderate ratings, which in order to be classed as ‘moderate’ in terms of air pollution, requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 µg/m³.
PM2.5 refers to particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, making it extremely small (approximately 3% of the diameter of a human hair) with the ability to spread far into the body via the respiratory tract and cause a number of health problems, hence why it is used as a unit of measurement for pollution because of its detrimental effects. When observing these PM2.5 readings taken in Nonthaburi province, Pak Kret came in with a PM2.5 reading of 24.2 µg/m³, not only making it the number one most polluted city in the Nonthaburi province but also placing it at the 35th most polluted city out of the whole of Thailand, out of 68 cities ranked.
The two other cities ranked in Nonthaburi, were Nonthaburi (a city with the same name as the state it is in) and Bang Kruai, which both came in with readings of 23.2 µg/m³ and 23 µg/m³ respectively. With these moderate ratings, it stands to reason that whilst the pollution is not as atrocious as some of its other Thai counterparts, for example the highly polluted city of Nakhon Ratchasima, which came in over 2019 with a PM2.5 average of 42.2 µg/m³, putting it into the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket (requiring 35.5 to 55.4 µg/m³ readings for classification) there are certainly problematic times of the year in regards to pollution.
Both Nonthaburi city and Bang Kruai had months of the year in 2019 that hit the unhealthy rating, with numbers of PM2.5 in January coming in at 70.6 µg/m³ for Nonthaburi, and 55.6 µg/m³ for Bang Kruai. Pak Kret also had two months in 2019 that went up a notch into the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket. An unhealthy rating is when levels of air pollution can get dangerous for all of the demographics of the population, and as such certain actions should be taken by sensitive groups of people during these times of the year, as well as statewide initiatives to get the levels of pollution back down to acceptable numbers. So, to finish, the state of Nonthaburi is not overtly bad with its pollution numbers, but during certain times of the year it can become quite dangerous, so pollution levels are certainly something that its citizens should be on the lookout for.
The main causes of pollution in the state of Nonthaburi are the same that one would find in Bangkok and many surrounding cities of the region, with a big three offending factors playing a role in their elevated levels of pollution. For a start, the sheer amount of cars, motorbikes, trucks and buses on the roads would be a huge contributor to the levels of pollution, and particularly due to its close proximity to Bangkok.
For those that work in Bangkok but live in surrounding suburbs or states, they can make the commute into the capital city and then back home again after, causing the incredibly high levels of traffic that Bangkok is subject to on a daily basis.
Cars alone would give off large amounts of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as well as soot and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Sulfur dioxide is a contributor to environmental damage as well as air pollution, causing acid rain to occur that can damage ecosystems as well as erode man made structures such as buildings and railways, due to its corrosive effect.
With a large number of these vehicles still running on diesel fuel, the exhaust would be significantly dirtier and polluting than its cleaner counterparts. This can create another pollution issue, that of black carbon and all the human and environmental costs that come with it. Black carbon is one of the main constituents of soot, and has a huge amount of detrimental effects on human health due to its small size and structural properties.
Aside from this it can cause damage to the environment, with its ability to have influence on phenomenon such as global warming and climate change. This is because it has the unusual property of absorbing solar radiation from the sun and converting it directly into heat, hence why polluted cities such as Bangkok have such an overwhelmingly hot feel to them, due to heat being pulled into the city and unable to properly disperse.
Other sources of pollution would be the industrial side of the state, with factories and construction sites responsible for giving off all manner of smoke, haze and fine particulate matter. A poorly maintained construction site can lose large amounts of finely ground dust and metals (such as lead and mercury), all of which can make their way onto the roads and into the atmosphere, whereby they combine with other pollutants from other sources to create even more volatile and noxious forms of PM10 and PM2.5. factories that deal in any manner of plastic products, be it recycling or the creation of plastic casings for food items or other goods can all release their own toxic byproducts, with molten plastic giving off a whole host of materials such as mercury, furans, benzene and vinyl hydrochloride.
Lastly, the burning of organic matter both dead and alive can contribute to pollution levels, both out in the countryside as well as within the city limits, despite practices such as these becoming more and more illegal as time goes on. People can resort to burning their refuse rather than disposing of it properly, and farmers sometimes still use to the outlawed method of slash and burn farming, which can cause terrible pollutive effects on a city that it may not even be close to, at the mercy of where the winds happens to be blowing, bringing with it vast clouds of smoke and haze that can get trapped within a city or states limits, failing to disperse, sometimes permeating the air for any number of days or weeks.
Whilst there is a lot of data unavailable in years prior to 2019 for the state of air quality in Nonthaburi, when comparing the numbers from 2019 to the 2020, it can be observed that slight improvements are being shown, but still with the same unwanted spikes in levels of PM2.5. The main reason for the slight improvements seen may have largely been influenced by the events of 2020, namely the outbreak of COVID-19 and the drastic effects it has had on global movement. With Bangkok and surrounding states and provinces being major tourist draws, both domestic and international, with the removal of the large amounts of tourists as would normally be seen towards the end of the year, so too would the pollution levels subsequently drop, although the term ‘substantial’ may be an overstatement in how far they dropped, with large numbers still being recorded, such as a PM2.5 reading of 40.6 µg/m³ taken of November 14th 2020.
Going off the data readings taken in 2019, the beginning of the year showed some really poor pollution readings, with the city of Nonthaburi showing the previously mentioned 70.6 µg/m³ in January, a number that is 3 times that of its yearly average (23.2 µg/m³). In contrast, the cleanest months are June through to august for all three cities in Nonthaburi state, with some months actually falling into the WHO’s target goal for air quality (0 to 10 µg/m³), a very respectable level of air quality. However, after August is over the air quality slowly begins to decline until it reaches higher numbers of PM2.5 once again in the months of November and December, being somewhat of an omen before the worst month of January would roll around in the new year with its elevated levels of pollution and haze.
Across the cities in the state, there are different numbers across each month, with some having more damaging effects than others. To mention the health effects of the assumed worst months and what the consequences would be, they would include illnesses such as chest infections and risks of asthma being triggered in those suffering from it, as well as causing respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and emphysema.
Heart diseases and other cardiovascular conditions are also common, with PM2.5 being able to reach the circulatory system via the lungs (due to their extremely small size). This can also cause damage to the blood vessels themselves, leading to heart attacks and arrythmias. To reduce the instances of such symptoms occurring, preventative measures such as staying indoors during periods of high pollution and avoiding outdoor activity would go a long way in helping, and for those with no choice, the wearing of effective particle filtering masks can be of great assistance in reducing the respiration of harmful particulate matter and other pollutants.