Sunday September 15, 2019

Minamata Convention on Mercury: A Landmark UN Treaty which Aims to Keep Millions Safe from Mercury Poisoning, comes into Effect

So far, 128 countries have signed the treaty and 74 have ratified it

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Treaty
A woman holds a victim of "Minamata Disease," or mercury poisoning, in Minamata, Japan, in a 1973 photo. The Minamata Convention, a global treaty aimed at curtailing the mining and use of mercury, took effect Wednesday. VOA
  • A landmark global treaty aimed at keeping millions safe from the horrors of mercury poisoning took effect Wednesday
  • The treaty requires governments to stop mercury mining, continue to cut mercury use in industry and slash emissions
  • Governments that signed the treaty must also meet tough conditions for storing and safely disposing mercury waste

The 2013 Minamata Convention was named for the Japanese bay from which mercury-tainted fish left thousands of people with severe brain damage in 1956. Industrial wastewater had been dumped into the bay for more than 20 years.

So far, 128 countries have signed the treaty and 74 have ratified it.

“The Minamata Convention shows that our global work to protect our planet and its people can continue to bring nations together,” UN environmental chief Erik Solheim said Wednesday. “We did it for the ozone layer and now we’re doing it for mercury, just as we need to do it for climate change.”

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Mercury was commonly used in batteries, fluorescent lights, felt production, thermometers, and barometers. These uses have been phased out. The treaty requires governments to stop mercury mining, continue to cut mercury use in industry and slash emissions.

Mercury is an extremely poisonous metal that never breaks down. Contact with it attacks the nervous system and can cause brain damage, severe emotional problems, coma, and even death. Children are especially at risk.

Mercury forms naturally in the environment but is also man-made for industrial uses.

“There is no safe level of exposure to mercury nor are there cures for mercury poisoning,” the U.N. says.

Governments that signed the treaty must also meet tough conditions for storing and safely disposing mercury waste. (VOA)

Next Story

Moon, Mercury May Have Far More Water Ice Than Previously Thought

The Chandrayaan-1 mission found evidence of water on the Moon

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Full Moon, Anniversary, NASA
The moon is seen during a lunar eclipse known as the "Super Blood Wolf Moon," in Manaus, Brazil, Jan. 21, 2019. VOA

Earth’s Moon and Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, may have far more water ice than previously thought, new evidence suggests.

“If confirmed, this potential reservoir of frozen water on the Moon may be sufficiently massive to sustain long-term lunar exploration,” said Noah Petro, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The potential ice deposits are found in craters near the poles of both Moon and Mercury, said the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“We found shallow craters tend to be located in areas where surface ice was previously detected near the south pole of the Moon, and inferred this shallowing is most likely due to the presence of buried thick ice deposits,” said lead author Lior Rubanenko of the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the past, telescopic observations and orbiting spacecraft have found glacier-like ice deposits on Mercury, but as of yet not on the Moon.

The new work raises the possibility that thick ice-rich deposits also exist on the Moon.

The research may not only help resolve the question regarding the Moon’s apparent low ice abundance relative to Mercury, but it could also have practical applications.

Mercury
We know so little about the planet Mercury. 

The poles of Mercury and the Moon are among the coldest places in our solar system. Unlike Earth, the spin axes of Mercury and the Moon are oriented such that, in their polar regions, the Sun never rises high above the horizon.

Consequently, polar topographic depressions, such as impact craters, never see the Sun. For decades it has been postulated these so-called permanently shadowed regions are so cold that any ice trapped within them can potentially survive for billions of years.

Previous observations of the poles of Mercury with Earth-based radar revealed a signature characteristic of thick, pure ice deposits. Later, NASA’s MESSENGER – the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging spacecraft – imaged these ice deposits.

Previous radar and imaging studies of the Moon, whose polar thermal environments are very similar to those of Mercury, found only patchy, shallow ice deposits.

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The study used elevation data obtained by MESSENGER and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to measure approximately 15,000 simple craters with diameters ranging from 2.5 km to 15 km on Mercury and the Moon.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on July 22 launched the Chandrayaan-2 Moon mission in order to explore the topography of the Moon and its composition and will search for water besides conducting in-situ studies.

The Chandrayaan-1 mission found evidence of water on the Moon. (IANS)