A Rough Day for Korea’s Environment

PHENOL LEVELS SPIKED IN South Korea’s Nakdong river today after a factory near the river went up in flames. In response to the pollution, authorities in the cities of Daegu and Gumi interrupted their water supplies for several hours, according to news reports. Both cities are now back online, but the event initially brought fears of a repeat of the 1991 disaster, when massive amounts of phenol leaked from a factory owned by the Doosan Group into Daegu’s reservoir system, making hundreds of people violently ill. Phenol is a toxic, colorless acid that has limited solubility in water. While most South Koreans drink filtered or bottled water, they still cook, bathe and brush their teeth with water from the tap.

At the same time, cities all over South Korea are currently getting a nasty dose of ‘Yellow Dust‘ — a cloud of pollutants that migrates regularly from China’s Gobi Desert to Korea and surrounding nations, causing severe respiratory problems for some. On bad yellow dust days (like the one pictured above), Koreans wear masks when walking the streets and advise strongly against doing any kind of outdoor exercise.

Photo: dust from over gobi desert over korea, by Abri Beluga.

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