Battle-hardened Bangkok locals unfazed by dust

Battle-hardened Bangkok locals unfazed by dust

People wear face masks while exercising in Lumpini Park in Pathumwan district of the capital. Air pollution in the capital has been far above the so-called safe limits for two consecutive weeks. The public has been advised to avoid exercising outdoors. Patipat Janthong

Despite the harmful dust levels reported across Bangkok since last week, residents seem unfazed by the potential risk to their health as they have already grown accustomed to some of the world’s most congested roads and thick traffic fumes.

“I don’t think any news about how harmful the dust is would affect the number of people who visit Rommaninat Park, because Bangkok residents are used to it already,” said Sirirat Kongpermpoon.

The 65-year-old takes a public bus from her house in Pran Nok to the park every morning to do aerobics.

She said the idea of wearing an air-filtering mask never even entered her head.

“Even though some people wear face masks on the street, most won’t. Holding their breath or covering their noses with their sleeves is more likely,” she said.

Ms Sirirat said people who live in the city are battle hardened and resilient as they have to contend with more immediate threats a few times a year, such as the risk of their house or street being flooded.

An 80-year-old man identified only as Roj said it was irrelevant to ask whether residents were running scared from the smog. All that matters is that the government do something about it, he said, clearly flustered.

“You had better ask whether the problem can be solved. If not, we’re on our own.”

Mr Roj, who also does daily exercises at the park, wondered how pollution levels could improve given the relationship between Bangkok’s growing modernisation and affluence, and people’s desires to buy and use cars.

Another spinoff of development is more construction projects, which spells yet more pollution, he said.

At Suan Lumphini Park, runners were seen jogging as usual yesterday afternoon, with no let-up in numbers. Only elderly people tended to wear masks.

One amateur triathlete, who declined to be named, said she was considering swapping the great outdoors for a treadmill unless the pollution apparently emanating from Rama IV Road eased.

The Pollution Control Department said levels of “deleterious airborne particulate matter” exceeding the safety limit of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre (µcg) were reported in six locations across Bangkok yesterday.

PM 2.5 levels hit 72 µcg on Intharaphithak Road in Thon Buri district yesterday, one of six hot spots in the city, monitoring-agency officials said.