Pattaya’s air is not as unhealthy as it has looked.

That was the message city officials were trying to get out Jan. 17 after blue skies disappeared under a blanket of white haze. Clear skies had returned by that date.

While the pollution looked like the dangerous cloud that has hung over Bangkok and surrounding provinces for weeks, it didn’t contain the same quantity of microscopic dust that has created hazardous health conditions in the capital, Deputy Mayor Poramet Ngampichet said.

Particulate matter 2.5 microns in size or smaller is dangerous because the human-respiratory system (and most masks) cannot filter the dust before it reaches the lungs. A level of more than 50 micrograms a cubic meter is considered hazardous.

Pattaya actually has been unable to measure air quality for years, despite having a truck outfitted with meteorological instruments. The problem? There’s no one employed in city hall that knows how to use it.

Environment Department chief Sutee Tubnonghee said Pattaya spent 10 million baht in 2005 for the vehicle but never maintained it. In 2012, the employee assigned to it was transferred to another department.

Sutee said the equipment now has been repaired, but there’s no one that knows how to run it. And even if there was, the technology is obsolete.

So Pattaya has outsourced its air-quality work to Chata Instrument Co., which has installed measuring devices at city hall and at the Pratamnak Hill viewpoint.

Poramet said the equipment on Pratamnak Hill was installed on Jan. 6 and, that day, it registered PM 2.5 air quality of 25 µg/m³. The equipment remains under testing and more readings will be taken regularly, he added.

Readings taken at city hall Jan. 17 measured 23.84, which officials called good for outside activities.

Nonetheless, the dust in the air has prompted city hall to take steps to ensure it doesn’t get worse.

On Jan. 17 city workers hosed down the Naklua long bridge, the site of the Naklua Walk & Eat and a busy truck-traffic route. Sand and soil often gets dropped along the route, causing it to be thrown into the air when driven over.