HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 584: 05 October 2011

Learning more about the dangers of Mercury
On the 26th of September, the National Environment Service Director, Vaioti Tupa, represented the Cook Islands at a three day forum in Japan as part of a negotiation group in the Asia Pacific Region on the chemical mercury.
Tupa only received the invitation two weeks before the forum was to be held and was very surprised but pleased to be asked to join the Asia Pacific region representatives in Japan to discuss ways to suppress mercury. The Cook Islands was one of only two Pacific nations to attend.
“We in the Cook Islands are not really aware of what mercury can do, so I was very glad to have been given the opportunity to go to the forum to collect more information and discuss with individuals who were representing their country at the forum who have experienced first hand of the side effects of the chemical if not handled properly,” said Tupa.
Tupa said the forum was very successful and that they will be taking their draft report and conclusions to the next meeting which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya. This meeting will take place in a UN compound on the 31st of October and will run for five days.
Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Symptoms include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis, coma and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms. A congenital form of the disease can also affect fetuses in the womb.
Minamata disease was first discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan in 1956. It was caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory, which continued from 1932 to 1968. This highly toxic chemical bio-accumulated in shellfish and fish in Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea, which when eaten by the local populace resulted in mercury poisoning. While cat, dog, pig, and human deaths continued over more than 30 years, the government and company did little to prevent the pollution.
As of March 2001, 2,265 victims had been officially recognized (1,784 died) and over 10,000 victims received financial compensation from Chisso. By 2004, Chisso Corporation had paid out $86 million in compensation, and in the same year was ordered to clean up its contamination. On March 29, 2010, a settlement was reached to compensate as-yet uncertified victims. -Tiare Ponini

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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