Jump to content

Air Quality Concerns

Recommended Posts

I was planning to train this winter / spring, but the air quality across the country looks atrocious. We are talking in the 100-200 range, which is as bad as it gets worldwide. The numbers are particularly bad in the North due to the burning of fields across the region. I am surprised this topic has not been covered here extensively.

To put it in perspective, AQI of 150 (Chiang Mai numbers in March) is roughly equivalent to smoking half a pack per day. There's just no way to run / train / relax with air this bad.

AQI is back down into the 50s on the islands in the South as of mid-March. I might attempt the trip now, though still a bit concerned. Please share your experiences with air quality here.

Edited by trailrun
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is near and dear to my heart (and lungs). Professionally, I used to work alongside the California Air Resources Board to help reduce industrial pollution by retiring old combustion engine machines and replacing them with zero-emissions electric equivalents. And now having been in Thailand for 7-months, I feel qualified to share my opinion on this subject. 

I read your question a few days ago and was thinking about it while gasping for air during my afternoon run in Northeast Thailand. Your post is inquiring about the "Macro" pollution problem, but doesn't consider the "Micro" pollution you'll experience in Thailand. I'll explain...

Macro Pollution: Yes, the overall air quality in Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai, etc.) is poor in the early months of the year before rainy season. In fact it's ranked top-5 worst in the world day-in-day-out. Looking toward the south, the air quality naturally improves near the ocean as there's less agricultural activity/burning, and an ocean jet-stream to help circulate fresh air. No matter where you are in the world, the air is usually fresher near the water. An island destination would be the best option for you this time of year. 

Micro Pollution: Here's a situation from the other day... I was running through the same alley that I always do when I hear a truck coming up from behind me. As I move over to give the truck room to pass, the driver accelerates quickly causing a large plomb of black smoke to belch out of the tailpipe directly at my feet and proceeds to crop dust the whole path in front of me. Now I'm having to hold my breathe as I proceed forward searching for a pocket of fresh air. When you're in Thailand, you'll be breathing brake dust and other grime from the roadways, and occasionally trucks, tuktuks, and motorbikes from 1970 will surprise you with a shower of black soot. This can happen anywhere, anytime. You'll find yourself unable to escape a pocket of heavy engine fumes. But it's not just vehicles... maybe there's a pop-up market on your run and there's 10 bbq pits roaring with smoke, or the guy nextdoor to your apartment felt compelled to burn all the brush in his yard at 07:00a on a sunday morning and the wind is blowing all the smoke into your room even with the windows and doors closed. While I gripe about these annoying micro pollution events, they are part of what gives Thailand its vibrant charm and richness of character. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the hilarity of it. 

Furthermore, the air pollution combined with 100+/40+ degree weather and 50% humidity can make it challenging to breathe when sitting around doing nothing. It's hard to explain just how heavy the air feels on and in your body... especially when you're gasping for air after a long run or intense round.

Some people are able to blissfully ignore the air pollution problem, while others like myself (and you) will dwell on it and worry about potential long-term health consequences. When I first came to Thailand it bothered me quite a bit... physically and mentally. My throat hurt from it and I felt sluggish. But now I've adapted to it and don't really suffer except when the intense micro pollution events like the example above occur. Earlier this year a friend of mine completed her PHD with a thesis on rates of disease in Thai population attributed to air pollution. The facts and figures she showed me were alarming.

Long story short... yes, the air pollution sucks in most of Thailand for some of the year, with each region having different weather patterns. If you're that worried about it, use a historical AQindex to choose the best location for the dates you'll be here based on years past. Then once you're here, don't obsess over it, just embrace it. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...