Polluted Chiang Mai, worth my health?

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.

sunset
On a good day…catching a lovely sunset.

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.

lani-masks
Ok, not fair, this pic was taken in 2010 when I lived in Ecuador. HOW-ever, I do don a mask around town when pollution is bad.

15 thoughts on “Polluted Chiang Mai, worth my health?

  1. In that picture you look like you might be studying to be a ninja. Overall the pollution in CM doesn’t seem that bad, considering most other places aren’t much better, or in the case of China are much, much worse.

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  2. Lani,
    I see that Tell Thai Heart is a thing of the past and you have moved on to new adventures. I was in CM Feb-May 2013 and it was a very bad year for burn off. I stayed in my room much of the time. I am now back in the US and trying to figure out how I can pull off a visit to Ecuador soon. Going in reverse order from you. Your writings are witty, clever, intelligent, and funny. I am a loyal fan. Regards, Jimj

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  3. Hi Lani, love the zany approach to your blog. I’ve lived here ten years, the smog thing is terrible in March (a combination of traditional farming methods, changing weather/no wind, dryness and territories beyond our control), however, for the rest of the year air generally cleaner than Bangkok, there is traffic pollution in all big cities, and bog spraying is essential in a tropical country (you’d rather not get malaria etc!).
    Here is a link to the air quality measures: http://aqmthai.com/
    As you will see the PM10 today was just 30. Only when it exceeds 100 is it unhealthy. You’ll be fine really!

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    1. Thanks Jono. Yeah, I’m just a little more crazy about air quality than most normal folks. I also gauge the quality with visibility, and I live in the city center which is surrounded by those horrible tuk tuks and rot dangs belching out fumes. I just hate it.

      But thanks for the reality check and the link 🙂

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      1. Lani,   Last year I could not see the mountains from my apartment near MeeChok plaza for most of two months. It was a nasty time and stayed in my apartment most of the time. A friend who still lives there left for a couple of months last year and is planning to leave again. If you have the resources that is a great idea.   It is rainy, windy, and cold in Cincinnati this morning. Be glad you are warm.   Regards, Jim

        Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.~Lao Tzu

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      2. Thanks. A good reminder. I’m so spoiled 🙂 I just want the world to be perfect. Sigh.

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  4. I hated springtime in Korea because it was “yellow dust” (sand from the Gobi + pollutants) season. I was sick until the end of summer. And I still joke about how living in Asia knocked several years off my lifespan. At least the good days over there are lovely, judging by that photo!

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    1. Another smoky season has begun again in Thailand and it has started off very hazy. I have been unable to see Doi Suthep from Chiang Mai and on my trip to Chiang Rai I saw burning all the way along the highway. Time to leave Thailand for a couple of month if you have the time and money. Otherwise, get a good mask, stay indoors with AC, and wait.

      A friend took off for the Philippines for this reason but came back in a week. Smoky CM beats the Phils, LOL. What to do?

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      1. Yes, if you have the money and time, it’s good to leave. Many do. One couple moved down South b/c they knew they were not going to be able to deal with the smog problem. I’m actualy surprised that everyone puts up with it.

        Today was our first day of it looking “soupy” out there. But leading up to this, I’ve been sneezing and looking at our beautiful skies turn grey. What are you going to do?

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    2. You know, I never knew that Korea had such a pollution problem until my friend Cat told me it was quite bad. It must be from China, right? Korea seems like such a clean and lovely country so I was surprise. Yes, a few years off of my life. Ug.

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      1. I am going stay until the end of march then decide if I want to travel for a month or two. Would be a good time to hit the road. So far the smoke has not caused me the usual coughing, runny eyes, and headaches so it is not too bad yet.

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  5. Urgh! I hate pollution. I don’t think it’s worth living cheaply because it will harm your health, then you gotta pay for medical bills, because those things can skyrocket! But you gotta do what you gotta do.

    I always wonder how Thailand is doing these days. I was told recently by a family friend that things are getting more expensive in Thailand well from what I know around Bangkok, but I assume that must also affect nearby cities.

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    1. Thailand has much bigger problems than pollution these days. Although the pollution isn’t going to go away no matter how much they hope it will.

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