Air pollution takes toll on motorcycle taxis

Air pollution takes toll on motorcycle taxis

Air pollution takes toll on motorcycle taxis
Motorcycle taxi riders practise stretching at an outdoor event hosted by Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Thai Health Promotion Foundation and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board on March 10. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Most motorcycle taxi riders in Bangkok have health problems due to air pollution, according to a Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) survey.

The work of motorcycle taxi riders is risky with few social security benefits or income stability, ThaiHealth director, Dr Pongthep Wongwatcharapaiboon said.

Their exposure to pollution and traffic congestion also leads to health issues including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease and ocular and respiratory problems.

Based on Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) figures from last year, Bangkok has 89,608 registered motorcycle taxi riders. ThaiHealth believes the real number might be higher at about 100,000 motorcycle taxi riders.

ThaiHealth recently surveyed 538 riders. They found that 56.9% smoke cigarettes and 57.1% consume alcohol.

These numbers are higher on average than those of the National Statistical Office’s 2021 population health behaviour data which found that for people aged 15 years old and above, 17.4% smoke and 28% consume alcohol.

ThaiHealth introduced projects to improve the wellness and safety of motorcycle taxi riders in a joint effort with the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), BMA and Raks Thai Foundation.

The plan has been piloted in 13 districts — Chatuchak, Laksi, Bang Kapi, Bang Khen, Bangkok Noi, Chom Thong, Thung Kru, Thon Buri, Wang Thonglang, Lat Phrao, Min Buri, Bang Bon and Khan Na Yao — to launch wellness training and workshops to educate motorcycle taxi drivers about health, safety standards, and illicit drug abuse.

A total of 2,426 participants will join the projects, he said.

Mana Siripithayawat, deputy secretary-general of the ONCB, said motorcycle taxi drivers are regarded as independent workers but they have a big responsibility to assure the safety of passengers.

The ONCB initially found some chewed kratom leaves or drank kratom tea to boost their strength or keep them awake. Others used cannabis to help them sleep easier.

The ONCB wants to boost awareness among motorcycle taxi drivers about the benefits and disadvantages of kratom leaves and how to use cannabis correctly under the law.

A urine test for illicit drugs among motorcycle taxi riders also will be launched to boost confidence among passengers about their safety, he said.