Ultrafine and Submicron Particles in the Urban Environment in Thailand - Size, Concentration, Composition and Health Impacts

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry


It is well known that particulate matter (PM) poses a significant health risk, especially to urban dwellers, with often the poorest in society most affected. Ultrafine particles (size smaller than 100 nanometres), as a component of PM, are increasingly implicated in disease and mortality. However, much of the research available in the literature is based on data from the developed world, especially for ultrafine particles, and without robust data it is not possible to determine trends in this important pollutant for Thailand and Bangkok in particular, and strategies for health protection therefore lack this vital information. In addition, aerosol particles provide the single largest source of uncertainty in most global climate models, and production of primary particles and gas precursors e.g. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the transport and industrial sectors contribute significantly to this. Therefore, in order for the impact of these activities on climate to be assessed and reduced, determination of sources and levels of emission of both gases and particles much be undertaken. This study will to our knowledge be the first to report ultrafine particle (UFP) number concentration and size distributions in the submicron (smaller than 1 micrometre) size range in urban Bangkok, Thailand. Population in this megacity is expected to rise as urbanisation continues in Thailand, with more people exposed to higher levels of gas and particle pollutants. We will carry out an extensive experimental campaign combining particle concentration, size distribution measurement and sampling with precise laboratory analysis for the particle composition, state-of-the-art atmospheric tracer dispersion experiments and modelling and source apportionment techniques to establish the sources, emission factors, human exposures and inhalation doses for this important health risk. We will undertake work in the three main seasons in Thailand (cool dry, hot dry and rainy) to determine how the climate influences particle size distribution and properties. We will also examine other regional particle source events, such as agricultural fires, visiting rural areas in and out of season for these events to determine their impact on particle concentrations. We aim to provide methodological advances in using non-standard instrumentation for size-segregated airborne particle sampling and for estimation of submicron particle size distributions using cheaper devices than are presently available. By obtaining this new information on typical levels in a variety of microenvironments, in different regions and by identifying sources and emissions factors, direct public health advice on exposure reduction through interventions could be achieved, and first steps taken to engage regulatory bodies and government agencies to aid in their target of reducing particulate pollution to improve the health and quality of life of Thailand and Bangkok residents, and hence reducing the significant current economic cost burden to the Thailand government associated with adverse health impact of particulates.

Planned Impact

Improved knowledge of areas, events and conditions promoting high exposure levels to ultrafine particles, and toxic metals contained within them, could lead to immediate interventions on local or regional scales e.g. public advice to remain indoors to reduce exposure during events, such as has recently been implemented in Beijing, or other exposure reduction at local government (e.g. Bangkok Metropolitan Area) or national government level, aiding in these bodies' responsibilities regarding public health protection by reducing concentrations, and/or mitigating effects by reducing human exposures when concentrations remain high. The long term goal is to assist in reducing the burden of ill health caused by air pollution in Thailand, helping to extend life, and improve quality of life, in particular among the poorest people for whom typical interventions to reduce exposure are not always possible and who often bear the brunt of low air quality. This would have advantageous consequences in terms of cost reduction for life years lost and healthcare in Thailand, which in 2002 was estimated to be 1.6% of Thailand's GDP for particulate matter alone, and would assist policy-makers, government agencies and public health practitioners on a local, regional and national level in their health improvement responsibilities. Improved knowledge of aerosol and precursor emissions from Thailand will also contribute to both the global effort to reduce the scale of climate change and the implications of existing and future climate change impacts within Thailand itself. The work also has relevance to national security considerations in terms of understanding pollutant behaviour following the (accidental or deliberate) release of toxic particulate or biologically active material, and results of this aspect of the study, especially regarding the applicability of models to various release scenarios, would be of interest to relevant defence and terrorist/incident prevention and response organisations in each country.


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Description We have carried out two extensive field campaigns in Thailand and have been working with the Pollution Control Department and the Chulabhorn Research Institute to analyse these data with their measurements. We have observed a number of firsts in terms of pollution data.
Exploitation Route Policy makers in Thailand
Sectors Education,Environment

Description They are currently being used to determine Thai policy on pollution abatement
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Please look at http://www.chemlabs.bris.ac.uk/outreach/latest.html this details the myriad outreach work that we do 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We run numerous Outreach activities please refer to the website log.

Please read our education papers
1. Criegee Biradicals and Climate Change. D.E. Shallcross and T.G. Harrison. Education in Chemistry 50(5) 22-24, 2013
2. Creating Climate Change Awareness in South African Schools Through Practical Chemistry Demonstrations. Suthananda N Sunassee, Ryan M Young, Joyce D Sewry, Timothy G Harrison, Dudley E Shallcross. Acta Didactica Napocensia 4, 35-48 (2012).
3. Outreach within the Bristol ChemLabS CETL (Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning). D.E. Shallcross, T.G. Harrison, T.M. Obey, S.J. Croker, N.C. Norman. Higher Education Studies 3(1), 39-49, 2013
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013,2014
URL http://www.chemlabs.bris.ac.uk/outreach/latest.html