Source: Vientiane Times
Many areas of Laos are now covered in thick haze, with PM2.5 levels greatly exceeding safe levels and having the potential to affect people’s health, the Meteorology and Hydrology Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, has warned.
On Saturday, the concentration of PM2.5 in Vientiane rose to 71µg per cubic meter (m3) of air.
The World Health Organisation sets the average standard level of PM2.5 at 25μg/m3 over a 24-hour period which, if exceeded, is considered dangerous to human health.
The current high level of particulate matter (PM) over Laos, with the highest concentrations occurring in Borikhamxay, Luang Prabang, and Xieng Khuang provinces, is caused by the burning of scrubland for the purposes of hunting, clearing land in preparation for crop growing, and general burning of garbage and leaves.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said satellite data showed numerous polluted hotspots across the country, which have set record levels of poor air quality in some places and greatly reduced visibility.
Air quality measurements taken from January to March indicate an average monthly PM level of more than 50μg/m3 per 24-hour period.
In Luang Prabang, the air quality monitoring station recorded PM levels ranging from 67-159μg/m3/24 hours.
In Oudomxay, PM levels ranged from 29-71μg/m3/24 hours and in Luang Namtha levels of 24-57μg/m3/24 hours were recorded.
In Bokeo, PM levels ranged from 26-91μg/m3/24 hours, while in Vientiane the measurements were 25-61μg/m3/24 hours.
The Khammuan station recorded levels of 39-82μg/m3/24 hours and in Savannakhet the range was 26-65μg/m3/24 hours.
With air pollution now reaching severe and hazardous levels, the ministry is warning people not to burn any type of garbage, to reduce outdoor activities as much as possible, and wear a face mask when spending time outside.