This year saw a big jump in public interest in not only air pollution awareness, but also interest in finding out the air quality reading in their area. There are a number of websites out there that help you with this. The main international sites are aqicn.org and airvisual.com. I have used them both, but I find AirVisual more useful. Mainly because AQICN seems to rely a lot on government monitoring stations that are not always reliably updated. Yes, AirVisual sometimes has these problems, but most of their stations are run by ordinary people and schools and these are updated hourly. AirVisual also has the advantage that they have a good app for smartphones and widgets that webmasters can put on their blogs like at the bottom of this post.
There are also two websites based inside Thailand that give air pollution readings. These are air4thai.pcd.go.th and aqmthai.com. Like AirVisual, the former also has an app for your smartphone. However, I would caution you in using this source. Firstly, their threshold is different and so when AirVisual and AQICN are showing orange and red levels, Air4Thai is showing green and yellow. This is because AirVisual uses US AQI threshold and says anything above PM2.5 25 µg/m³ is dangerous. The standard in Thailand is that it is not unsafe until it is above PM2.5 50 µg/m³ (see this tweet). The second reason is that their readings are a 24-hour average, unlike AirVisual which is an hourly average. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is not useful when there is a sudden change in air quality as it won’t tell you that you now need to put on a mask. AirVisual, with its hourly updates, does a better job of doing that (see this tweet).
I find this live AirVisual Earth map very useful. In the animated version, you can clearly see where the winds are coming from and what kind of air pollution they are bringing. Dark red is bad and green is good. In this screenshot, the winds in Bangkok are coming from the South and Southeast. As they are coming off the Gulf of Thailand, it does a good job of clearing any pollution in the capital. However, when the wind changes and it comes from say the North or East, then the pollution level in the capital rises. Click here for the live map.
I find this second map useful for a different reason. It is FIRMS’s fire map and it shows you all of the hotspots in the last 24 hours. As you might be aware, air pollution, particularly of the PM2.5 kind, is not all caused by traffic pollution. A fair amount comes from fires such as the practice of slash and burn. Sugar cane farmers, for example, use this quick method to clear the ground to make it ready for a new crop. Unfortunately, this greatly contributes to air pollution many miles away when the wind is blowing in that direction. Click here for the FIRM’s Fire Map.
If you have any suggestions for more useful sources for information about air pollution in Thailand and the region, please post them in the comments at the bottom of the page. Thanks.
- Pollution Watch Thailand (Facebook)
- Environmental issues in Thailand (Wikipedia)
- Finally: The Truth About Air Pollution in Thailand
- Air Quality Bangkok (Plume Labs/Flow)
- Cheap Sensors Are Democratizing Air-Quality Data (Flow)
- Health problems posed by lack of awareness about air pollution (The Nation)
- AQI Calculator – US EPA Scale convertor
The following are US AQI and PM2.5 readings for various stations around Thailand from AirVisual. Click here to see more and for a map.
For more of my blogs on air pollution, click here.