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Air Pollution and PM 2.5 In Cars, Buses, Taxi, Bangkok

How Bad is the Air Inside Your Car in Bangkok?

Most of us know, how polluted the air can be outside and how that’s especially bad for young children. With good air-purification can ensure that kids are safe at home. But about the commute? How bad is the air inside cars? We tested it ourselves.


What makes Bangkok especially prone to bad air inside cars? 

The INRIX rated Bangkok the 16th most congested of all cities, with drivers spending an average of 64 hours per year in congested, often highly polluted, traffic. That means Bangkok residence spend around 3 hours a day commuting, and children are no exception, as many of them spend those long hours in school buses where the air is often much worse than outside.


Which are the most dangerous vehicles?

The worst is a normal bus, followed by tuk-tuks, air-conditioned buses, taxis, and finally private cars. Taxis are usually more polluted than passenger cars, due to a lack of maintenance or change of air filters. School buses and minivans were not part of the research. 

most polluted cars and buses in bangkok traffic

This graph is based on extensive research about in-vehicle respirable particulate matter in passenger vehicles under different ventilation conditions and seasons, which was carried out in Delhi, India. While the logic should be the same, the actual amounts may differ in Bangkok (the taxis in Bangkok are probably newer). 


Facts about pollution inside cars:

  • Exposure to fine dust particles in cars, buses, and taxis is usually higher than in indoor locations and at urban monitoring sites.
  • PM 2.5 concentrations in your car depend on congestion level, wind speed, relative humidity (RH), driving lane, road type, seasonal changes, vehicle type and the use of AC among other factors
  • The highest PM concentrations are measured while being in traffic congestions or when behind a heavy diesel-driven vehicle, such as big trucks or buses.


Do Your Car Filters Help?
An old and dirty filter is letting more polluted air from outside into your car, so regular changing the filter is important. However, even if you change the filter, dirty air can still come inside. We did our own test to see how the air inside a car (BMW, 3 Series) changes when replacing a very old and dirty filter, with a brand new HEPA that we ordered online.

Testing the Air (pm 2.5) inside a Car in Bangkok

The air on the day of our first tests (with old filter) was measured around 180. Inside our car, we measured on average at 110 and then when stuck on Sathorn Road reached up to 190.

Car Filter Pm 2.5 Bangkok


The next day we changed the filter with a new one. Again the outside air quality level was around 170.

Car Air Filter Test (BMW) Bangkok Pm 2.5

The air inside the car improved quite a lot although it was still polluted as this time measured we measured around 70. When driving behind an old diesel bus, it reached one average 116 and at one point even 150. The good thing, shortly after we left the lane behind the bus and turned into a small road, the air quality dropped to around 50 within a matter of a few seconds. Realizing that even new filter don’t protect you and your child inside a car, it became clear that relying only on the filters from the car is not the best option.


How well do the Air Purifier work?
Just as an air purifier can bring good air to you and your family right in your home, so do car air purifier cleans the air when inside your car. Even new vehicles and those that had a recent change in HEPA filters can still be filled with many tiny dust particles that may expose you and your children to potential health threats. To ensure that the car is truly clean inside your car, you probably need to add additional purification. Two decent solutions come from Xiaomi and Phillips.

Car Air Purifier available in Thailand


How to ensure we are safe inside a car?
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. To ensure that your child is safe inside your car during the days when the air is very polluted outside, we advise you to do the following:

  1. Make sure the car your child is traveling in had a recent filter change
  2. Purchase an air purifier for your car or for the time when you travel with your child in other rides
  3. Avoid buses and taxis (taxis are usually worse than private cars is because taxis are usually less well maintained)
  4. Avoid very congested roads and driving behind trucks, buses and other diesel engines
  5. Limit the amount your child is stuck in traffic to the minimum


Why children are at high risk inside cars?

One reason why children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution is that they breathe more rapidly than adults, and so absorb more pollutants. But there is another reason. The largest portion of a child’s lungs will grow long after birth. In fact, eighty percent of their tiny air sacs develop after birth. Those sacs, called the alveoli, are where the life-sustaining transfer of oxygen to the blood takes place. If the air is bad inside your car, your child is more exposed than yourself. 


More information:

We hope you find the information useful in making your commute to our school safer. If you want to know how to protect your children from bad air, read our other article on the topic. At Sprouts we use SMART AIR purifiers in all play and restrooms, ensuring that at least while your child is at the school, the air is as good as it gets indoors.