Study links haze, radon danger risk

Rays in the atmosphere. (Bangkok Post file photo)

An award-winning scientist claims to have found a strong correlation between the haze season in the North and radioactive radon particles in the atmosphere.

Narongchai Autsavaprompron -- a lecturer of therapeutic radiology and oncology for Chiang Mai University's Faculty of Medicine -- said his research team has been studying the relationship between radon levels and the haze season across four districts in Chiang Mai for three years, said that radon levels "significantly" spike between February and March every year as a result of slash-and-burn farming practices.

Radon particles are known to be radioactive, and numerous studies have shown that continuous exposure to radon particles has been linked to an increased incidence of cancer.

Mr Narongchai, who was recently awarded at the International Nuclear Science and Technology Conference hosted by Thailand's Institute of Nuclear Technology, said that while radon can be found everywhere in nature, the area around Chiang Mai has a particularly high concentration of the radioactive particles, which is locked in the granite mountains that surround the region.

"We have found high concentrations of radon during the haze season, both in the air and in the blood samples of local residents that we studied," Mr Narongchai told the Bangkok Post.

"We have also found chromosomal irregularities in some of the samples," he said, before adding that the irregularities may eventually develop into other illnesses, most notably cancer.

Mr Narongchai said that the chromosomes of affected children are shorter in length, and more similar in structure to senior citizens.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set the maximum safe threshold for radon at 100 becquerel per square metre.

Mr Narongchai and his team expect to confirm the correlation uncovered in its study by next year.

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