Thai capital known for tourist sites chokes in polluted haze

A woman wears a face mask to filter out some of the thick air pollution early Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. The Bangkok Real-time Air Quality Index shows unhealthy levels of PM2.5 (Particulates per Million) in the day. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
A man wears a face mask to filter out some of the thick air pollution as he crosses the pedestrian bridge early Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. The Bangkok Real-time Air Quality Index shows unhealthy levels of PM2.5 (Particulates per Million) in the day. (AP Photo)
A thick smog hangs over downtown Bangkok, Thailand, early Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. The Bangkok Real-time Air Quality Index shows unhealthy levels of PM2.5 (Particulates per Million) in the day. (AP Photo)
A woman wears a face mask to filter out some of the thick air pollution early Thursday, Feb.8, 2018, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. The Bangkok Real-time Air Quality Index shows unhealthy levels of PM2.5 (Particulates per Million) in the day. (AP Photo)
A man wears a face mask to filter out some of the thick air pollution early Thursday, Feb.8, 2018, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. The Bangkok Real-time Air Quality Index shows unhealthy levels of PM2.5 (Particulates per Million) in the day. (AP Photo)
A woman wears a face mask to filter out some of the thick air pollution early Thursday, Feb.8, 2018, in downtown Bangkok, Thailand. The Bangkok Real-time Air Quality Index shows unhealthy levels of PM2.5 (Particulates per Million) in the day. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
A thick smog hangs over downtown Bangkok, Thailand, early Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. The Bangkok Real-time Air Quality Index shows unhealthy levels of PM2.5 (Particulates per Million) in the day. (AP Photo)
The elevated train passes in front of the Lumpini Park coved in a thick layer of smog downtown Bangkok, Thailand, early Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. The Bangkok Real-time Air Quality Index shows unhealthy levels of PM2.5 (Particulates per Million) in the day. (AP Photo)

BANGKOK — A cloud of unhealthy haze has settled across the Thai capital, shrouding the gilded temples and towering skyscrapers that draw millions of tourists to the city each year.

The country's Pollution Control Department said Thursday that concentrations of tiny particles known as PM 2.5 that are a benchmark measure of air quality were almost double the levels considered safe.

Department officials blamed high humidity for contributing to the haze, while environmentalists cited the capital's famously traffic-choked streets.

Tara Buakamsri, Thailand director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, in a Thursday Facebook post blamed Bangkok's polluted air on the city's abundance of cars and pollution from a coal-fired power plant in southern Thailand.

Many Bangkok commuters were seen sporting surgical masks, while some schools issued warnings over poor air quality and canceled outdoor activities.

Greenpeace also warned those living in other major Thai provinces over the poor air quality.

The Pollution Control Department said Wednesday that Thailand's northern region often sees haze from January to April, the country's dry season, as more forest fires occur and farmers burn materials to prepare for the impending rainy season. It said dry and still air traps dust particles and prevents them from falling to the ground, resulting in adverse environmental and health effects.

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