Ok, maybe epidemic is too strong of a word. It's not like the world is ending. Not just yet anyway.
I understand the causes of the pollution we've been hit with recently in Bangkok and around the majority of Asia. Most of us do. It's the result of progress - progress made initially in ignorance of what our actions would do to the environment. Yet progress that is slowly also recognizing that problem and trying to address ways to avoid destruction to ourselves.
What is really irritating me (and not just my lungs) is the fact that the general public seems blissfully ignorant of the danger of breathing-in such low air quality
The Air Quality Index for Bangkok at the moment is 199 - a meaningless number, but for perspective, I know of several international schools in China that won't let kids play outside if the index gets above 120-130, deemed "unhealthy for sensitive groups" by the international non-profit organization [based in Beijing, mind you] that consolidates and provides air quality data worldwide.
199 is considered "unhealthy" for everyone, and a mere hair's breadth away from "very unhealthy," which again for perspective is described as "health warnings of emergency conditions" and "the entire population" is likely affected.
Now, I'm not about to make any judgements about why we aren't being warned about these conditions because after all, I'm just a tax-paying foreigner with absolutely no legal rights, but I do have to observe the idiom on which the true danger rests: ignorance is bliss.
Sadly, and I've confirmed this by talking to many people, Thais and foreigners genuinely don't know that this "fog" we've had off and on for a few weeks now is the same "fog" that the poor people of Beijing face on a regular basis, the same "fog" they're frequently warned about and, in fairness, have been taking steps in recent years to combat.
People here often have no idea that by allowing their kids to go on playing outside and participating in sports, and even just walking to school, they're allowing them to breathe in potentially dangerous chemicals and dust that can make them sick. There's just little concept of it.
In fairness, in my several years in Thailand now, I've never seen it like this.
Sure, we get our days of "oh I wish they'd do something about these Cold War-era red public buses," but a settled haze hasn't been a norm I've experienced. Also in fairness, at least from what I've read and seen from time to time, there are laws and regulations in place designed to combat [or at least start] these issues, but I won't go there.
None of this makes up for the fact that people are getting sick. Has anyone taken public transport lately and witnessed the number of people coughing? It's not just the cold, folks.
My point is this: I understand there is an image to be upheld, and that as a guest in this generally fine country, I have no right (nor desire) to make waves or play the blame game. I just think we should all exercise a bit of common sense. At the very least, be aware of the situation and help make others more likely to be affected (young children, for example) aware too!
I hope you enjoyed my blog. If you would like to get in touch or perhaps e-mail me with a question, I would love to hear from you - All the best, Sam Thompson.