Gov’t asks Thais to cool it with the incense, kingdom already choking

Photo: Christopher Miche / Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Christopher Miche / Wikimedia Commons

Could you please not with the incense right now, health officials are pleading, as Thailand is already choking on enough hazardous air pollution. 

As forest fires rage in Indonesia, sending thick black smoke over the Thail south for a second week, filling lungs with harmful micro-particulate dust, the Health Ministry chief has asked for people to limit their incense-burning in the coming weeks. Oh, and Bangkok’s air has gotten foul again in recent days as well. As of late Friday afternoon it sat at a “moderately unhealthy” 91 according to an air quality monitoring organization.

Thai south chokes on worst Indonesian smoke in years

With several notoriously incense-heavy festivals approaching, Deputy Minister Sathit Pitutecha suggested people use smaller incense as well as extinguish it after the ceremony to minimize pollution. He also said incense trays should be cleaned regularly of their fine, very-inhalable dust.

Starting next week, traditional religious celebrations including Sat Thai and nine-day Taoist Nine Emperor Gods festival – aka the Vegetarian Festival – which are famous for their excessive incense.

The health ministry issued a similar warning earlier this year for Chinese New Year, asking revelers not to burn joss papers and limit incense-burning. The director-general at the time, Panpimol Wipulakorn, cautioned that pollution from the two sources can cause eye irritation, sneezing, breathing difficulties and headaches, while prolonged exposure could even cause cancer.

“The burning of incense releases many kinds of hazardous heavy metals and carcinogens,” she said. 

The region’s current smoke front is cascading in over water from forest fires raging on the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Neighboring Malaysia and Singapore are also choking. Though the smoke problem is a persistent and pernicious problem brought on by out-of-control agricultural slash-and-burn practices, the toxic smoke has been made worse this year by particularly dry weather.

Over the weekend, surreal videos of blood-red skies illustrating horrific levels of haze in Indonesia’s Jambi emerged on social media. 

As well as turning Jambi days into nights, many locals are even comparing the hell-scape to living on Mars.


Viral videos of blood red skies show horrific levels of haze in Indonesia’s Jambi

Thai south chokes on worst Indonesian smoke in years

Dramatic satellite imagery shows haze smoke from forest fires blanketing Borneo

Opinion: Is it time to find a more environmental/health-friendly alternative to joss paper burning?

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