One of the reasons why I love my apartment is I have a fairly good view of Doi Suthep, the predominate mountain here in Chiang Mai. But I don’t use my view strictly for pleasure, I use it to gauge the air quality.
Although ever since I returned from holiday, I can see that Doi Suthep is hazy, enshrouded in a mysterious mist despite sunny skies. I’ve noticed my allergies kicking up, and I don’t normally have allergies. I posted my observations on Twitter, and posed the question, “What’s going on?” but received no response.
A coworker suggested it might be the “change of weather” but what if it isn’t? What if it is the rise of toxicity in the air we breathe?
What’s alarming is, this is not considered the “season” for pollution, when the hill tribes practice their slash and burn agriculture causing those with finances to flee the city (So very Elysium, eh?). This brings me back to my original question, “What’s going on?”
Yes, tourism has been at an all-time high this past year, so maybe it’s an increase of air and ground traffic. Maybe it’s the inevitable accumulation of the harmful fumes many of the vehicles emit. Or maybe it’s the excessive use of industrial bug spray discharged into the residential areas of Chiang Mai.
This morning I was in the middle of my coffee/yoga/feed the fish/check social media routine, when I heard the distinct sound of the bug spray machine charge up (Think of those evil leaf blowers but instead they blow massive amounts of “bug spray”). I immediately closed my window and turned on the fan toward my front door, as my front door is a rolling one, not hermetically sealed. (This is actually one of the reasons why I never leave my windows open when I leave my apt. I never know when this machine will go off, and I don’t want this noxious air in my place.)
Despite my best efforts though, I smelled a little of it. And even after I took a shower and avoided going outside, when I eventually did step out, I could smell the lingering scent of cockroach killer. You always know when they’ve been by because suddenly a profusion of dead roaches will be lying around town or down your street.
My friend brought up a really good point. If this stuff kills roaches, there’s a good chance it kills other creatures like geckos and lizards which are known to eat these disgusting bugs.
I remember being horrified when I was shopping at an open market, Somphet, a few years back, and the bug spray blower suddenly charged up and down the soi engulfing the whole market with smoke.
Vendors immediately covered their produce and meats with cloths and blankets and I covered my nose and mouth and tried to get out of the way. But I wondered, “Is this a regular occurrence? Is this the food I’m buying? Does everyone think this is okay?”
These days, the latest endeavor is to kill mosquitoes with these kinds of invasive sprays. Of course, there is a natural way to eradicate mosquitoes and the dengue fever onslaught Chiang Mai is experiencing, but a chemical-free way would be too easy.
So this morning as I was sandwiched between the hazy sky, and the poisonous plume licking its way through my door, I wondered if living on the cheap, in Thailand, is worth the damage it’s doing to my health.