Chiang Mai Expats Club hears from documentary film maker Marisa Marchitelli
Marisa Marchitelli screened her documentary
Smoke; The Documentary at the Chiang Mai Expats Club meeting on November 26,
2016 and answered questions from the audience.
By Shana Kongmun
Smoke; The Documentary, by Marisa
Marchitelli, was screened at the Chiang Mai Expats Club General Meeting
at Le Meridien Chiang Mai on November 26, 2016 to a packed house. The
film explores the smoke crisis that strikes Chiang Mai and the North
annually and talks with health, environmental, and tourism experts on
the impact the growing problem has had on people and business.
Marisa screened her short
documentary film Smoke; The Documentary which showed interviews with
doctors, environmentalists, business leaders and residents affected by
the smoke. Particulate matter was explained, including the difference
between PM10 or particulate matter at 10 micrometers and PM2.5 which is
2.5 micrometers in diameter. PM10 and PM2.5 can both be inhaled and are
small enough to enter the bloodstream through the alveoli in the lungs.
This can lead to increased risk of heart disease along with emphysema,
asthma, lung cancer and other issues. The elderly and children are most
at risk during the smoke season.
is joined by Chiang Mai Expats Club president Nancy Lindley and Board
member Jenny Croyston before the meeting.
Surgical masks are useless, they do
not filter out these tiny particles, best is to purchase an N95 mask
which Marisa told the audience can be purchased at many hardware stores
including Home Pro and some of the pharmacies in town.
The standard maximum level set by
the World Health Organization or WHO is a PM10 level of 50 over a 24
hour period and 25 for PM2.5. Thailand’s levels are set at more than
double with a PM10 of 120 being considered unhealthy and a PM2.5 level
of 50 being considered unhealthy. This would be the amount of
particulate matter measured in a period of 24 hours. The Thai medical
community is not happy with the Thai standard and has urged the
government to adopt WHO guidelines.
The film was extremely informative
and discussed the amount of tourism business lost in March and April
every year due to the smoke, as well as the causes of the increasing
amount of smoke seen each year. Fifty years ago, this was not an issue
but with the intensification of agriculture and the increased amount of
contract farming of corn that is being grown in areas cleared of forest
has led to longer and more severe smoke seasons.
As the film and Marisa pointed out,
it’s a complex issue and there is no single solution but efforts to give
farmers the opportunity to have alternative ways of handling with the
biomass left after harvest including the biochar system from Warm Heart
Foundation and the development of a mulching machine that can be used by
farmers by the Rotary Club of Lampang.
There is a culture of burning
across South East Asia that goes year round, but increased farming and
deforestation is making the climate drier and leading to increasing
droughts and soil erosion that, as Marisa pointed out, can lead to
long-term issues in food security.
Marisa also recommended that people
at the meeting use the Air 4 Thai app which shows the AQI- a number she
finds to be unclear but also offers PM10 levels at air monitoring
stations around Chiang Mai and across Thailand. She noted that many of
the stations do not monitor the more dangerous PM2.5 levels.
She suggested to members that if
they cannot leave during the smoke season to stay indoors, keep their
air conditioners on, change the filters in their air conditioners
regularly noting most modern air conditioning units use HEPA filters
that clean the air. Avoid exercise outside and wear the N95 mask but
make sure to replace it regularly. She also suggested as consumers we
can put pressure on the corporations that promote contract corn farming
such as CP and Betagro through boycotts and public awareness.
The complete film can be found at