Minamata Disaster Essay

712 WordsMay 14, 20133 Pages
Minamata Disaster. What is it? Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. What is the cause? It is caused by the consumption of large quantities of fish and shellfish living in Minamata bay and its surroundings, the major causative agent being some sort of organic mercury compound. When was it discovered? Minamata disease was first discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, in 1956. It was caused by the release of methyl mercury in the industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation's chemical factory, which continued from 1932 to 1968. While cat, dog, pig, and human deaths continued for 36 years, the government and company did little to prevent the pollution. The animal effects were severe enough in cats that they came to be called "dancing cat fever." How did it affect the people? * Symptoms The 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. * How many people were affected? March 2001, 2,265 victims have been officially certified (1,784 of who have died) and over 10,000 people have received financial compensation from Chisso, although they are not recognized as official victims. Some people feared the disease to be contagious and many local people were fiercely loyal to Chisso, depending on the company for their livelihoods. In this atmosphere sufferers were reluctant to come forward and seek certification. Despite these factors, over 17,000 people have applied to the Council for certification. Also, in recognizing an applicant as a Minamata disease sufferer, the Certification Council qualified that patient to receive financial compensation from Chisso. For that reason, the Council has always been under immense pressure to

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