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Executive Summary for October 21st

We review the latest Arctic news, including a push by Indigenous groups to ban heavy fuel oil in the Arctic and high rates of respiratory infections among infants in the Canadian Arctic.

Published on Oct. 21, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

International Marine Body Under Pressure to Ban Heavy Fuel Oil in Arctic

As representatives gather in London next week for the annual meeting of the International Marine Organization, environmental groups are calling for a ban on the use of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters.

Arctic Indigenous leaders are also traveling to the meeting to brief the delegates of the importance – and impact – of shipping on their Arctic communities, reports Radio Canada International. They would like to have a permanent voice at the table of the organization that regulates the global maritime industry.

Many of the vessels operating in the Arctic run on heavy fuel oil. If spilled into the ocean, it breaks down slowly and could become trapped in ice. Burning heavy fuel oil creates particulates of black carbon, short-lived climate forcers that can speed up snow and ice melt.

Heavy fuel oil cannot be used in Antarctica or in national park waters around the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

The U.S. and Canada have previously warned the IMO about the damage an HFO spill could cause to the Arctic marine environment, and last month the Danish shipbuilders’ association and the Danish political party Venstre added their support for a ban.

The longer the delay in decarbonizing the shipping industry, the more difficult it will be, warns an article in Lloyd’s List.

Preventative Treatment Could Cut Rates of Respiratory Infections in Infants

Children born in some Arctic regions of Canada have some of the highest rates of lung infections in the world, reports the Canadian Press.

Lung infections in Inuit infants born in northern Quebec and western Nunavut are 40 times greater than the rates seen in southern Canada. According to the study, more than 40 percent of all newborns in western Nunavut in 2009 later wound up in the hospital.

The study looked at infants younger than 12 months in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Nunavik who had been admitted to hospitals with respiratory infections, reported the Nunatsiaq News.

Overcrowded homes, poor nutrition and exposure to cigarette smoke are among the factors that increase the rate of lung infections.

In 2010, the Canadian Pediatrics Society had recommended that a preventative drug, palivizumab, be administered to all full-term Inuit infants less than 6 months old living in areas with high rates of respiratory infections.

The cost of administering the drug is more than CAN $6,000 ($4,500), but such a program would save money for some Arctic regions, where the cost of hospitalization can run upwards of $30,000.

Greenland Calls on Denmark and U.S. to Clean Up Military Waste

The Greenland government says the responsibility of cleaning up thousands of tons of military waste languishing at over 30 abandoned U.S. military sites in Greenland belongs with Denmark and the United States, reports Reuters.

A resolution on the matter is expected to be adopted at Greenland’s parliament next month.

Greenland’s foreign minister Vittus Qujaukitsoq penned an editorial in the Danish newspaper Berlingske charging Denmark with violating the Indigenous rights of Greenlanders by failing to clean up the waste.

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