Thailand's Health Ministry hands out 5,000 face masks

THAILAND - Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with eye complications, chronic diseases or respiratory problems living near a garbage-disposal site on fire in Samut Prakan are advised to be extra careful about sudden health hazards from the toxic haze.

The thick haze caused at least two people to require medical assistance but they are now safe, Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Narong Sahametapat said yesterday.

He said 5,600 protective masks had been provided to residents near the site, which covered more than 100 rai (16 hectares).

The provincial authority later classified the area a disaster zone due to toxic contamination.

Narong said mobile medical units were dispatched to the site and nearby areas to provide assistance upon request.

People with cardiac and lung issues and asthma are prone to greater complications due to the haze.

People without protective masks should cover their nose and mouth with a wet towel and wear goggles if they stay outdoors or travel on motorcycles in affected areas.

One person given medical assistance was a 17-year-old rescue worker who choked on smoke and had difficulty breathing but is now okay.

Another person given medical assistance was a 35-year-old woman who also could not breathe properly and has since been discharged from hospital.

Disease Control Department director-general Dr Sophon Mekthon said carbon monoxide could cause nausea and dizziness and render unconsciousness. It could also be fatal.

He said formaldehyde from burning garbage could cause irritation to lung tissue, sting the eyes and cause lung disease in the long term.

Sulphur dioxide could cause chest discomfort with a faster heartbeat and could kill people with asthma or heart or lung disease.

Sophon said a team of ministry air-pollution experts had inspected conditions at the site and would determine whether the particles were hazardous or were small enough to cause lung complications.