Protect Children from Air Pollution in Bangkok
During some month, usually the cold season, Bangkok’s air ranks among the most polluted in the world. Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution, as compared to adults, their lungs are still growing, and because children are so active, they breathe in a great deal of air. If children are exposed to toxic air, it impacts their small lungs, their brain, and their hearts.
Why children are at high risk:
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 are other reasons:
- The largest portion of a child’s lungs will grow long after birth. 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.
- Children don’t behave like adults. They are often outside for longer periods and are usually more active when outdoors. Consequently, they inhale more polluted outdoor air than adults do.
- Air pollution can also affect your child indirectly. Pregnant women who are exposed to polluted air, for example, are more likely to give birth prematurely and have small, low birth-weight children.
Why are fine particles so dangerous for children?
- Fine dust (PM 2.5) affects the neurodevelopment of your child, negatively affecting mental and motor development.
- High levels of air pollution directly affect a child’s measured levels of intelligence (IQ), equivalent to missing an entire year in school.
- Even low levels of air pollution are damaging children’s lung function and can lead to chronic lung problems, asthma and cardiovascular diseases later in life,
- Air pollution is one of the leading threats to child health, according to the World Health Organization accounting for almost 1 in 10 deaths in children under five years of age
How to protect your children at home:
Even if it feels safe and clean, remember that small particles are invisible and can easily enter your house.
- To protect your child at home, close the windows on days where the pollution is high.
- Get an air purifier with a HEPA Filter. We recommend those from Smart Air, which perform well (see graphic below) and are more affordable. Smart Air products can be ordered in Thailand. Alternatives that you find at a department store are the air purifiers from Phillips or Xiaomi.
- Since air conditioners usually don’t filter the small dangerous particles, we recommend adding 3M filters to your air conditioner. They are easy to install (watch video) and help filter some of the fine particles.
- If you live next to a major road, be aware that even when air quality forecasts are good, vehicles on big roads can create high pollution levels up to 250 meters away and hence affect the air quality at your home.
How to protect your children in the car:
Children are also at risk of dangerous levels of air pollution inside your car, because of the toxic air from the traffic around which cars don’t filter properly.
- If you must drive in traffic, set your air vent to recirculate with your windows up just before you hit the traffic on the road. But also try to keep a safe distance from vehicles ahead of you, especially diesel trucks or obviously polluting cars.
- Install a HEPA rated cabin air filter in your vehicle. Bosch has created a cabin air filter that their testing has shown meets the relevant HEPA standard – filtering out 99.97% of all particles. The Bosh HEPA filters are available online can be installed in most car models. If your car already has a HEPA filter preinstalled, make sure you change it regularly.
- In addition, you can buy air purifiers for your car. Car air purifiers employ a range of technologies to improve the quality of air inside vehicles without any modification to your car.
How to protect your children outdoors:
- Protect your child by reducing the time spend outdoors when pollution is high
- If you take your child for a walk around the city, then you should avoid high traffic streets.
- If you cannot avoid polluted streets, get your child to wear a mask. We recommend the N95 Mask from 3M, which is available for children or otherwise can be modified for children (watch video).
How to check the air quality:
- You can check the pollution for Bangkok on the website of the World Air Quality Index. Another local map is Air4Thai. We recommend to not only look at the overall score but zoom in and look for the sensors closest to your home. Sometimes the overall air is reported to be good, but the air in your area is unhealthy.
- To find the check for the pollution at your home, buy a PM2.5 monitor. We recommend the one from Maker Space Thailand, the IQAirVisual or the Laser Egg from Kaiterra.
When is the air pollution bad in Bangkok?
The worst months are the coolest, December, January, and February. This is where the pollution becomes some of the worst in the world.
What air is safe for my children?
To make sure your children are fully protected against this invisible threat, try to keep the air Good (below 50). If you measure air which is just moderate or unhealthy air for sensitive groups (young children are the most sensitive group), take precautions.
How does the weather affect pollution?
During the cool season, the air is more likely to stay where it is, as cold air drops. That means that there is less of an exchange with fresh air from above. This leads to higher pollution levels. An effect is also known as a temperature inversion, which describes the phenomenon in which warm layers of air prevent the cool polluted air from below from passing through, adds to the problem.
In Bangkok and other tropical cities, humidity plays also a role. If humidity is high, water attaches to PM 2.5 particles. That might have a positive effect on pollution, as once the particle less attached to water it is more likely to sink or attached itself to a surface instead of flying around and getting into your lungs. Both phenomena combined are the reason that it’s especially the cold and dry season (Nov-Feb) that make the air quality in Bangkok so toxic.
How we protect your child at Sprouts Kindergarten
We track the air every morning using the AQICN station at Chulalongkorn Hospital, around 500 meters from our center. But we also monitor the air quality inside our center and run HEPA filters to control for the air indoor. In addition, we take the following precautions:
- If the air quality outdoors exceeds 150, we do not let the children play outside and close all windows
- If the measured air quality outdoors exceeds 100, we limit outdoor activities and close windows