Newsletter 216


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Newsletter 216

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER216 t h issue, January 16, 2012 Consensus, the “Golden Rule” Against Mercury* By Noelia González In this issue: In 2010, many countries met in Stockholm to discuss placing limits on mercury. The meeting was held exclusively to address the contaminating effects of this element, following upon scientific Pollution: Consensus, evidence that had already confirmed its prejudicial effects on health and the environment. the “Golden Rule” Against Mercury. Something had to be done. Thus, nations started travelling on the road of negotiations, agreements Health: Cryosurgery in and discrepancies on mercury, that is ending now in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2010, the Cancer Treatment. Intergovernmental Committee of Negotiations (INC) expected five meetings, all of them chaired by Energy: Concentrated the Uruguayan diplomat Fernando Lugris. Today, the final text of a legally- binding agreement for Solar Power Emerging all ratifying countries is being prepared. to Challenge Photovoltaics. How to prevent mercury—which can produce nausea and even death– to continue to be released Science: Pulling into the environment? How to avoid its spread? Where to keep mercury waste? How to obtain Carbon Dioxide Out of resources for implementing these measures? Countries have been discussing these topics over the Thin Air. last three years, and they are about to achieve definite answers. Antarctica: Deep Under Antarctica, Uruguay is the author of the “Chair’s text”, prepared by teams from the Ministry of Foreign Looking for Signs of Relations and Environment, and available in five languages. The final text, however, will be signed Life. by all countries and will include the final negotiation pack, explained Lugris. This document will Peru: Creation of include various topics, such as financial aspects and technical assistance for developing countries to Sierra del Divisor implement these measures. National Park. Next events: Other key issues include “levels for control measures, specially for atmospheric mercury emissions”, he added. This is because mercury is naturally available on Earth. Hence the need to control “anthropogenic emissions” of mercury, that is, humans’ emissions. February 1, 2013 REO S&T School According to an article published by The New York Times, one third of emissions comes from Contest human activity, such as carbon plants and low-scale gold mining (this is the main polluting mercury Launching source). One third comes from natural sources, such as volcanoes or forest fires, and the other February 4, 2013 third is re-emitted after the original mercury release. World Cancer Day March 22, 2013 There are other sensitive topics, such as the use of World Water Day mercury amalgams, that have divided dentists’ March 23, 2013 communities all over the world, and disposing of mercury Earth Hour waste, one of the most complex issues in hazardous April17-19, 2013 waste management. These questions will be addressed in IFT Energy Santiago, Chile the final session debates prior to putting the final April 22, 2013 touches to the legally-binding agreement, said Lugris. Earth Day Read full article at: June 5, 2013 uruguay-al-frente-de-un-tratado-para-combatir-el-mercurio/ World Environment Day Illegal gold mine established in Madre de Dios-Peru, in 2009. Photo by Lou Gold (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. The information contained herein was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so. For questions or comments, please contact us at * Free translation prepared by REO staff.
  2. 2. H E A LT H : Cryosurgery in Cancer Treatment Cryosurgery (also called cryotherapy) is the use of extreme cold produced by liquid nitrogen (or argon gas) to destroy abnormal tissue. Cryosurgery is used to treat external tumors, such as those on the skin. For external tumors, liquid nitrogen is applied directly to the cancer cells with a cotton swab or spraying de- vice. Cryosurgery is also used to treat tumors inside the body (internal tumors and tumors in the bone). For in- ternal tumors, liquid nitrogen or argon gas is circulated through a hollow instrument called a cryoprobe, which is placed in contact with the tumor. The doctor uses ultrasound or MRI to guide the cryoprobe and monitor the freezing of the cells, thus limiting damage to nearby healthy tissue. (In ultrasound, sound waves are bounced off organs and other tissues to create a picture called a sonogram.) A ball of ice crystals forms around the probe, freezing nearby cells. Sometimes more than one probe is used to deliver the liquid nitrogen to various parts of the tumor. The probes may be put into the tumor during surgery or through the skin (percutaneously). After cryosurgery, the frozen tissue thaws and is either naturally absorbed by the body (for internal tumors), or it dissolves and forms a scab (for external tumors).Photo by I-Ta Tsai (flickr user). Under Creative Cryosurgery is used to treat several types of cancer, and some precancerous or noncancerous conditions.Commons License. In addition to prostate and liver tumors, cryosurgery can be an effective treatment for the following: Retinoblastoma (a childhood cancer that affects the retina of the eye). Doctors have found that cryosurgery is most effective when the tumor is small and only in certain parts of the retina. Early-stage skin cancers (both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas). Precancerous skin growths known as actinic keratosis. Precancerous conditions of the cervix known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (abnormal cell changes in the cervix that can de- velop into cervical cancer).Cryosurgery is also used to treat some types of low-grade cancerous and noncancerous tumors of the bone. It may reduce the risk of jointdamage when compared with more extensive surgery, and help lessen the need for amputation. The treatment is also used to treat AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma when the skin lesions are small and localized.Researchers are evaluating cryosurgery as a treatment for a number of cancers, including breast, colon, and kidney cancer. They are alsoexploring cryotherapy in combination with other cancer treatments, such as hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or sur-gery.Read full article at: Concentrated Solar Power Emerging to Challenge Photovoltaics By Umair IrfanAlong with the suns light, our closest stars heat is an ample source of renewable energy, which generators can harness in ways that over-come one of solar energys biggest shortcomings. Using mirrors, developers can focus the suns rays to produce industrial heat or gener-ate electricity, often using materials that can store the energy, as well. In theory, it is a very simple idea and certainly is not a new one.Legend has it that Archimedes used large, polished mirrors to torch Roman ships during the Second Punic War.In the United States, concentrated solar power (CSP) manifested in the 1980s as nine power plants in Southern California using trough-shaped mirrors to concentrate energy on a circulating heat transfer fluid. The fluid, often a synthetic oil, thenheats up a molten salt to as high as 350 degrees Celsius, which then boils water to drive a turbine.Interest in CSP waned and development largely idled for more than a decade as low-cost fossil fuels, wind energyand photovoltaics came online. However, in recent years, the demand for renewable energy and solar thermaltechnology caught up with each other as utilities sought clean and constant power. Now developers in theUnited States and abroad are building new CSP facilities, spurring research into new methods to make thesesystems more efficient."CSP today offers functionality that [photovoltaic technology] doesnt have, which is dispatchability," said PhilipGleckman, the chief technology officer at Areva Solar. The liquid salt compound in solar thermal plants can stayhot for several hours, allowing the operator to generate electricity as needed, he explained. This means a CSPplant can produce a steady electron flow as clouds pass overhead and even after the sun sets, unlike photo-voltaic panels that only produce electricity when the sun shines. Photo by Living Off Grid (flickr user).Read full article at: Under Creative Commons License.
  3. 3. SCIENCE: Pulling Carbon Dioxide Out of Thin Air By Anne EisenbergNow a Canadian company has developed a cleansing technology that may one day capture andremove some of this heat-trapping gas directly from the sky. And it is even possible that the gascould then be sold for industrial use.Carbon Engineering, formed in 2009 with $3.5 million from Bill Gates and others, created proto-types for parts of its cleanup system in 2011 and 2012 at its plant in Calgary, Alberta. The com-pany, which recently closed a $3 million second round of financing, plans to build a completepilot plant by the end of 2014 for capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, said David One tone of carbon dioxide gas would fill a sphere overKeith, its president and a Harvard professor who has long been interested in climate issues. 10 meters diameter. Image by Carbon Visuals (flickr user). Under CreativeThe carbon-capturing tools that Carbon Engineering and other companies are designing have Commons License.made great strides in the last two years, said Timothy A. Fox, head of energy and environmentat the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London. “The technology has moved from a position where people talked about thepotential and possibilities to a point where people like David Keith are testing prototype components and producing quite detaileddesigns and engineering plans,” Dr. Fox said. “Carbon Engineering is the leading contender in this field at this moment for puttingan industrial-scale machine together and getting it working.”Should the cost of capturing carbon dioxide fall low enough, the gas would have many customers, he predicted. Chief among them,he said, would be the oil industry, which buys the gas to inject into oil fields to force out extra oil. The injection has minimal risk,said Howard J. Herzog, a senior research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The enhanced oil recovery indus-try has put tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the ground every year for decades with no problems,” he said.Much of the carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery comes from naturally occurring underground reserves that are piped to oilfields, said Sasha Mackler, vice president of Summit Carbon Capture, a unit of Summit Power Group in Seattle. Summit Carbon Cap-ture harvests carbon dioxide gas from coal and natural gas-burning plants before it can be spewed into the air. [...] The recoveredcarbon dioxide may be sold one day, not only for enhanced oil recovery, but also to feed algae to produce biofuel. It may also besequestered in places like unmineable coal seams and oil and gas reservoirs, says a new Energy Department report.Reat more about this topic at: Deep Under Antarctica, Looking for Signs of Life By James GormanThree major scientific projects set out this season to seek evidence of life in lakes deep under the Antarctic ice — evidence that couldprovide clues in the search for evidence of life elsewhere in the solar system, perhaps in Mars’s past, or even now under the surfaceof Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. But only one of the projects, a $10 million expedition from the United States, has a chance ofidentifying long-hidden microbes before the weather on the frigid continent puts an end to drilling in about a month.Three major scientific projects set out this season to seek evidence of life in lakes deep under the Antarctic ice — evidence that couldprovide clues in the search for evidence of life elsewhere in the solar system, perhaps in Mars’s past, or even now under the surfaceof Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. But only one of the projects, a $10 million expedition from the United States, has a chance ofidentifying long-hidden microbes before the weather on the frigid continent puts an end to drilling in about a month.Dr. Priscu is hopeful, he said, given that “10 years of circumstantial evidence” suggest that “there should be a viable microbial com-munity that’s living in the dark and the cold.” The project is called Wissard, for Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drill-ing.Both the Russian and British projects aimed to reach waters under two or more miles of ice.Lake Whillans lies under a half-mile of ice. For all three, there is no sun to power living cells,only minerals and heat from the earth’s interior. While life is known to survive in the deepocean without photosynthesis, nothing like these cold, freshwater depths have ever beenexplored. Robin Bell, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-DohertyEarth Observatory, who studies the behavior of ice sheets with radar and other techniques,said the subglacial Antarctic lakes hold “whole ecosystems that have never really beenlooked at.”Read more at: Photo by Ronald Woan (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.
  4. 4. P E R U : Creation of “Sierra del Divisor” National Park* The Commission for Categorization of Sierra del Divisor Reserved Zone is in charge of assigning the category of National Park to this Reserved Zone and will present its proposal to the Ministry of Envi- ronment by January 17, 2013. Then, the Ministry of Environment will submit this proposal to the Council of Ministries for approval. This commission is presided over by the National Service of Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP in Spanish) and includes the Ministry of En- ergy and Mines, the authorities of Loreto and Ucayali regions, indige- nous organizations, ProNaturaleza and the Peruvian Society of Envi- ronmental Law (SPDA in Spanish). According to the Master Plan for Protected Natural Areas and the National Conservation Strategy, the Government of Peru considers Sierra del Divisor a priority area for conservation, based on the bio- logical, geomorphological and cultural diversity of the only mountain region of the Peruvian Amazon. The high ecological and conservation value is based on the fact thatProNaturaleza, a Peruvian foundation for conservation of nature, supported actively the ridge is geologically different from the rest of the Amazo-the creation of this reserved zone since the beginning. Thus, on April 11, 2006, thePeruvian government approved the creation of Sierra del Divisor Reserved Zone, nia. These ridge systems are the only ones to the east of the Peruvianextended over 1’478,311.39 hectares. Sierra del Diviasor is located in the border Andes and contain a large variety of soils and watercourses, whichwith Brazil, between Loreto and Ucayali. have resulted in high levels of biodiversity and endemism.With the creation of this national park, basin heads and clean water sources serving the cities of Requena, Contamana and Orellanaand many indigenous communities and villages will be protected, a significant advantage among other social and economic bene-fits for a population of approximately 43,500 inhabitants.Sierra del Divisor is the most important source of drinkable water in the low Amazonia. As well, commitments undertaken by theforeign offices of Brazil and Peru, within the framework of a bi-national strategy for conservation and development of the regionsof Acre (Brazil) and Ucayali (Peru), will be achieved.The creation of the national park also promises toprovide better legal protection to Isonahuas indige-nous groups, voluntarily isolated communities, andto support the development of an integrated andbalanced management of natural resources of thesurrounding areas.Read more at: www.pronaturaleza.orgTo watch a video about Sierra del Divisor: with journalist Augusto Alvarez Rodrich: with environmentalist Astrid Gutsche: The origin of the name “Sierra del Divisor” comes from the water natural divisor of the basins of the Ucayali River (Peru) and Juruá River (Brazil). There are also valuable fossil vestiges in this region. In Brazil, the area was declared national park on June 16, 1989. Photo source:!/photo.php? fbid=10151218348881520&set=a.10151218348631520.493716.190528621519&type=3&theater