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Government dismisses Cambodia smog rumours

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The Ministry of Environment claims that Cambodian air remains clean and unaffected by air pollution from neighbouring countries. MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT

Government dismisses Cambodia smog rumours

The Ministry of Environment has dismissed “rumours” that the current chronic smog gripping Thai capital Bangkok will spread to Cambodia, saying that, unlike its neighbour, the Kingdom does not have a serious air pollution problem.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post on Monday that results showed Cambodia’s air quality was good.

“Cambodia does not have the kind of issue [Thailand is facing] because air quality here remains good, according to our monitoring,” he said.

Pheaktra said people should not be concerned by rumours emanating from “ill-intentioned people” that pollution from Thailand would damage Cambodia’s air quality.

He said Phnom Penh did not have anywhere near the number of cars on the road as Bangkok, while Cambodia had ample forests to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

“Bangkok has air pollution. According to a study, the area has too many cars – over six million. It is not only cars that pollute, but other [factors] also contribute to air pollution.”

Using air inspection devices to survey atmospheric particulate matter, the ministry on Saturday announced that air quality in Cambodia was not harmful to the health of the Kingdom’s citizens.

“PM 2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter – PM – that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres. Atmospheric particulate matter occurs from the burning of fossil fuels. PM 2.5 can be absorbed into the lungs and blood vessels, which can harm people’s health if too much of the matter is absorbed by the body,” Pheaktra said.

PM 2.5 is the most damaging air pollutant for human health, and it exists as tiny particles created from dust and the burning of fossil fuels. These particles can contribute to a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, strokes and especially lung illnesses such as cancer and emphysema.

The Bangkok Post ran an article on Monday saying: “[Bangkok residents] have faced this [toxic] haze for several weeks. As the situation remains serious, demand for masks is increasing.”

Last week, the Kingdom’s embassy in Bangkok urged Cambodians living in Thailand to be careful and wear masks to help prevent health hazards caused by chronic pollution.

“All Cambodians who are present in Thailand, please take care your health and wear N95 protective masks,” the embassy’s statement said.

The Post could not reach Health Minister Mam Bun Heng and Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann for comment.

Battambang provincial governor Nguon Ratanak told The Post on Monday that the province, which borders Thailand east of Bangkok, had not seen any increase in health problems, with its air quality at normal levels.

“Bangkok is [more than 300km] from Battambang province, and air [from the Thai capital] blows towards the coastal areas geographically speaking. The current situation is good [here]. No health issues have emerged due to air pollution,” he said.

Poipet governor San Sean Ho said Poipet city was also located on the border with Thailand and likewise had not experienced any increase in air pollution.

“It is normal here. I have statements only regarding Chinese New Year. Regarding [air pollution], nobody should be concerned,” he said.

Phnom Penh only began monitoring its pollution levels in April 2017 when a device collecting data was installed besides two acidic deposition pollution monitors on the roof of the ministry’s headquarters. Before this machine was installed, there was no officially recognised monitor of the capital’s PM 2.5 air pollution levels.