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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oil in the Gulf, Methyl-murcury in Japan: Lessons to be learned





As our attention focuses with the intense media coverage of the BP crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico we need not forget some other industrial disasters. With a recent legal settlement that spans a half-century there comes some compensation to survivors of methyl mercury poisoning in Minamata Japan first discovered in the 1950's.

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Agreement reached to settle Minamata suit

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

2010/03/31

KUMAMOTO--A group of 2,123 uncertified victims of Minamata mercury poisoning agreed Monday with three defendants--the state, the Kumamoto prefectural government and Chisso Corp., the company that discharged mercury into the sea--to accept a Kumamoto District Court proposal to settle their damages suit.

The deal offers a lump-sum payment of 2.1 million yen ($22,700) and monthly medical allowances to each plaintiff, along with an additional fund of 2.95 billion yen for the group.

A formal settlement is expected by the end of the year, after a third-party panel determines whether each plaintiff should be covered by the settlement. Should some not be covered, the group will compensate them from its fund.

A relief law enacted last year means that the government will provide similar levels of relief to other patients, totalling nearly 40,000, who are not officially recognized and not part of the suit.

Symptoms of Minamata Disease [methyl-mercury poisoning] include numbness in the limbs, cramps, and problems with speaking, vision and hearing. The disease can also affect fetuses in the womb.

Ref: http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201003300438.html


this photograph succinctly illustrates the effect of Minamata disease on the human body
this historic photograph is of Tomoko Uemura's crippled hand, a victim of mercury poisoning in Japan (d. 1977)
Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_disease#cite_note-3
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Eto K et al. – This report provides a brief research history and overview of the pathological changes of MD, and also presents representative cases of adult, infantile and fetal forms of MD among the 450 MD–related autopsy cases in Kumamoto Prefecture.


The pathology of methylmercury poisoning (Minamata disease)
The 50th Anniversary of Japanese Society of Neuropathology
Komyo Eto, 1 Masumi Marumoto 2 and Motohiro Takeya 3
1 Health and Nursing Facilities for the Aged, Jushindai, Shinwakai, 2 Pathology Section, Department of Basic Medicine, National Institute for Minamata Disease, and 3 Department of Cell Pathology, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kumamoto University, Kumamoto, Japan

Correspondence to Komyo Eto, Director, Health and Nursing Facilities for the Aged, Jushindai, Shinwakai, 272 Ikura Kitakata, Tamana City, Kumamoto 865-0041, Japan. Email: shinwa@drive.ocn.ne.jp

ABSTRACT

Methylmercury (Me-Hg) poisoning (Minamata disease: MD) is one of the most severe types of disease caused by humans to humans in Japan. The disease is a special class of food-borne methylmercury intoxication in humans as typified by the outbreak that began in 1953 in Minamata and its vicinity in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. There are 450 autopsy cases in Kumamoto and 30 autopsy cases in Niigata Prefecture related to MD in Japan. Two hundred and one cases in Kumamoto and 22 cases in Niigata showed pathological changes of MD. This report provides a brief research history and overview of the pathological changes of MD, and also presents representative cases of adult, infantile and fetal forms of MD among the 450 MD-related autopsy cases in Kumamoto Prefecture.



Received 18 February 2010 and accepted 8 March 2010.


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