Getting from (PM)2.5 to Zero: Why unraveling the ‘Cause and Science’ of Air Pollution is critical for change

Roadshow Recap from Session Stop #1, August 19

You can watch this session (and others) on our YouTube channel — note, this specific session was conducted in Thai with simultaneous translation to English.

Highlights from the Experts who came to explain

Dr. Vanisa Surapipith, Atmospheric Scientist & Modeller at the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand and Clean Air Blue Paper co-author, began the panel discussion by breaking down the science behind harmful air pollution. Air pollution comes from many different sources, and most of the core components of harmful smog exist in nature. However, it is the unnatural combination of a high volume of PM 2.5 — the tiny particles that get lodged in our lungs or even enter our bloodstream and cause bodily harm — together with other culprits like nitrous oxide, aerosols, ozone, and other volatile organic compounds that react with sunlight and cause the toxic cocktail of a photochemical smog. What is worrisome is the anthropogenic activities that are causing this harmful air pollution to swell to unhealthy concentrations for long periods of time across the country. (See here for more on the science behind air pollution).

See Dr. Vanisa’s Presentation Here (in Thai)

“We have to study further the impact PM2.5 has on both our health and the climate. That should be a trigger point for policymakers to do something about the problem. They have to be concerned about the health of their citizens and the health of the country at large.” — Dr. Vanisa Surapipith, National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand

Dr. Wirun Limsawart, Head of the Society and Health Institute at the Ministry of Public Health, walked through air pollution’s “environmental pathway” — its journey from the source to our body. This pathway informs how air pollution’s effects on health are measured, and also what actions we can take to protect ourselves and our loved ones from its danger.

“We need to understand the ‘sensitivities’ to air pollution, and design different protective measures that work for different groups. This is not unlike the COVID-19 pandemic. We have lockdowns for the pandemic; similarly we also need to have lockdowns for air pollution crises too.” — Dr. Wirun Limsawart, Ministry of Public Health

Ms. Penchom Saetang, Director ofthe EARTH Foundation, and Ashoka Fellow, gave further details on what the health effects of industrial pollution exposure in particular have been in Thailand. “The number of birth defects in thailand is not small. These can be caused by mercury or other heavy metals, but also by dioxin in the air,” Ms. Penchom said, saying it is difficult to estimate a full number of those affected by dioxin in air pollution, but it is not small. There has not yet been cause-and-effect studies directly linking dioxin with birth defects, which is one of the gaps in the academic look at air pollution in Thailand. It is apparent, however, that the prevalence of birth defects in areas close to factories — where dioxin is caused by incomplete combustion from incinerators — are high. Map Ta Phut (Rayong), a major industrial area in the eastern peninsula, has regularly recorded high levels of dioxin; including in the eggs from hens scavenging for food in the area. The monitoring and control of industrial emissions, therefore, is one area where effective governance is required.

For more information on industrial emissions’ effects on the people’s lives, see this collection of images showing the dire problems around industrial parks in Thailand.

“The budget appropriated for economic drive far exceeds that appropriated for environmental work. This signifies the highly-unbalanced approach to our nation’s development. We need to change the mindset, and drive for a more balanced development between economic growth and environmental protection.” — Assoc.Prof.Dr. Witsanu Attavanich, Kasetsart University

Synthesis and Next Roadshow Stops

Between looking at the science behind air pollution and its causes, the health impacts, and the issue with environmental-related expenditures, we now see the complexity of air pollution issues in Thailand. It is important that a sustainable solution be developed with a systems perspective in view. There will be no single silver bullet solution that magically gives us clean air, but rather a holistic approach with paradigm shift, infrastructure change, and policy push will be required.

Next Session

Join us for the next session on August 26th, where we hear from innovators and entrepreneurs reframing air pollution as an asset. You can easily register at — we hope to see you there.

Check out all the details and ways to get involved on and offline at



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We are a self-organized, citizen-driven project focused on humanity’s big challenges\\ \\ @circular_lab