Saturday, March 17, 2007

Health authorities issue masks to northerners

The pollution in Thailand's north is not abating. Lots of people are having trouble with breathing, sore eyes, and other ailments. They need a good thunderstorm to wash the air clear again... though maybe that's simplistic it usually seems to make a difference.

MCOT : Health authorities issue masks to northerners :

BANGKOK, March 16 (TNA) – Thailand's public health ministry has sent 300,000 additional masks to eight northern provinces shrouded in haze pollution, even as the provincial health authorities estimate that as many as two-thirds of local residents now have respiratory complaints, serious allergies and colds.

Deputy Public Health Minister Morakot Kornkasem led a team to visit patients with respiratory illnesses in hospitals in Lampang, Chiang Rai, and Phayao on Friday.

He said that the North's average level of the air pollution is still higher than the maximum permitted by health standards, and more patients come daily to receive medical treatment at the region's hospitals.

Dr. Morakot said in Lampang, dust particles were measured at 152.6 microgrammes per cubic metre, against the health standard of 120 microgrammes.

There were 1,578 patients with respiratory illness visiting the hospital from March 1-14, 2007. No severe illnesses were reported, but two-thirds had colds.

In Chiang Rai, some 12,000 cases of colds and eye irritation were reported. About 120,000 masks are needed for children, the elderly, and patients with asthma and heart disease.

Local residents are advised to avoid outdoor activities and to cover their noses and mouths with damp cloths to filter out the particle-laden air.

Deputy Prime Minister and Social Development and Human Security Minister Paiboon Wattanasiritham said in his capacity as chairman of the committee coordinating haze pollution response in the northern provinces that all bush fires will be contained in the north within three days.

When the situation improves, he said, long-term measures will be planned and implemented.

Air quality in many areas has improved, he indicated, stating that there is now no need to declare an environmental emergency as was earlier being considered as officials are bringing forest fires under control. (TNA)-E004

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