In a word: toxic waste
“The chemical companies want to make as much money as they can,” says Michael Goggin, president of the American Pines Coalition. “A lot of these companies have been dumping a lot of hazardous materials into state waters.”
The worst of it is called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. These dyes were commonly used as paints until 1975. As a result, they were banned as an ingredient in household products in the United States, but many people continue to wash them in a chemical known as bisphenol A.
In a study published in the journal Science in 2013, researchers found PCBs and DDT in the pine tar-water combo contained a mix of dioxins and PCBs. This particular mixture contains higher levels of DDT because pine tar contains a high proportion of the neurot toxin. This chemical was also used in the United States as a pesticide.
In North Korea, the government has banned the manufacture, import, and use of almost everything, including PVC pipes, to help prevent contaminated water from getting into the country.
“We know that there are significant quantities of PCBs in North Korea,” Goggin says. “There’s no doubt that they are doing it to keep the people alive. There are thousands of deaths every year from liver cirrhosis.”
The toxic chemicals in North Korea are not just found in the waste that is being washed into the river. There is also a lot of it still coming out of the country and the South.
“There is a lot of dioxin in the country,” says Michael Goggin. “The only way to avoid this is for people to leave. We’re going to help them.”
Is it illegal?
There are rules governing what’s allowed on the rivers and lakes in North Korea, but they aren’t strictly enforced.
“The only thing with those restrictions in North Korea,” Goggin says, “is that they try to do it without using [these chemicals]. These people didn’t know they had dioxins in everything they eat. They didn’t know. They’re not going to go and do all the things that they know how to do in North Korea for their own safety. So those things need to be banned too.”
North Korea is not yet a member of the World Health Organization’s list of countries that have banned hazardous waste from entering waterways. Goggin believes we
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