Air Pollution in Northern Thailand

Air Pollution in Northern Thailand

March 18, 2019 Culture of Health Thoughts of the day 0

The main cause of air pollution in the northern region of Thailand in the impact on your health

Maize is a food crop that is important for the animal feed industry globally. Thailand is ranked as the world’s 26th major maize producer. The quantity of total maize production in the country was about 4,804,670 tons in 2014 (FAO, 2016). The northern region of Thailand contained approximately 800,000 ha of maize in 2014, representing 68% of the total maize acreages of the entire country (OAE, 2015). Generally, maize cultivation in this region is classified into two generations. The first generation is cultivated in the rainy season (May–October) and primarily harvested in early September. The second generation is cultivated in the dry season(November–April) and primarily harvested in February (DOAE, 2015). After harvesting, the residues are usually disposed of by open burning in the fields during the dry season (January–April) to prepare the new crop cycle for the coming rainy season. Maize residue burning was proposed to be the main cause of air pollution in the northern region of Thailand (PCD, 2016).

It was found that total VOC emissions released during the burning season (January–April) was about 79.4 tons. Ethylbenzene, m,p-xylene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, acetaldehyde and o-xylene were the major contributors, accounting for more than 65% of total speciated VOC emissions.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are compounds that easily become vapors or gases. 

VOCs are released from burning fuel such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. They are also released from many consumer products:

  • Cigarettes
  • Solvents
  • Paints and thinners
  • Adhesives
  • Hobby and craft supplies
  • Dry cleaning fluids
  • Glues
  • Wood preservatives
  • Cleaners and disinfectants
  • Moth repellants
  • Air fresheners
  • Building materials and furnishings
  • Copy machines and printers
  • Pesticides

When VOCs combine with nitrogen oxides in the air, they form smog.

What happens when I am exposed to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

Short-term exposure to various VOCs may cause:

  • Irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Visual disorders
  • Memory problems

Long-term exposure to various VOCs may cause:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system
  • Cancer

Sirithian, D., Thepanondh, S., Sattler, M. L., & Laowagul, W. (2018). Emissions of volatile organic compounds from maize residue open burning in the northern region of Thailand. Atmospheric environment176, 179-187.

Tox Town. (2019). Volatile Organic Compuounds (VOCs): Your Environment, Your Health | National Library of Medicine. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Mar. 2019].