The following is a timeline of key events related to Minamata disease:
|1908||Nichitsu opens a chemical factory in Minamata|
|1932||Acetaldehyde production using a mercury catalyst begins|
|1945||Japan is defeated in World War II. The Allied occupying forces order the dismissal of Nichitsu|
|1950||Shin Nichitsu is founded as the successor to the old company|
|August 1951||The co-catalysed was changed from manganese dioxide to ferric sulfide resulting in side production of methylmercury|
|1 May||Company hospital director Hajime Hosokawa reports the discovery of Minamata disease|
|24 August||Kumamoto University research group formed|
|4 November||Kumamoto University research group reports initial suspicion of a heavy metal poisoning, presumably through eating contaminated fish|
|March||British neurologist Douglas McAlpine suggests that Minamata disease symptoms resemble those of organic mercury poisoning|
|September||Shin Nichitsu changes the acetaldehyde plant wastewater discharge route from Minamata Bay to Minamata River|
|February||Investigations of Minamata Bay uncover shocking mercury contamination|
|29 August||Mediated compensation agreement between Chisso and the Minamata Fishing Cooperative for damage to fishing|
|21 October||Shin Nichitsu changes the acetaldehyde plant wastewater discharge route back from Minamata River to Minamata Bay|
|2 November||Members of the Kumamoto Prefectural Alliance of Fishing Cooperatives invade the Minamata factory and riot, causing damage amounting to JPY10 million|
|12 November||The Ministry of Health and Welfare reports that "Minamata disease is a poisoning disease... 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."|
|17 December||Mediated compensation agreement between Chisso and the Kumamoto Prefectural Alliance of Fishing Cooperatives for damage to fishing|
|29 December||Mediated compensation agreement between Chisso and the Minamata Disease Patients Families Mutual Aid Society|
|29 November 1962||18 children are certified as the first congenital Minamata disease victims|
|1 January||Shin Nichitsu changes its name to the Chisso Corporation|
|12 June||The outbreak of a second Minamata disease in Niigata Prefecture is made public|
|March||Niigata patients file a lawsuit against Showa Denko|
|26 September||The national government issues an official conclusion as to the cause of Minamata disease and Niigata Minamata disease|
|14 June||Litigation Group of the Mutual Aid Society files a lawsuit against Chisso in the Kumamoto District Court|
|4 July||Hajime Hosokawa testifies from his deathbed about his cat experiments in the Litigation Group trial|
|27 May||Arbitrated compensation agreement between Chisso and the Arbitration Group of the Mutual Aid Society|
|29 September||Showa Denko found guilty of negligence; Niigata patients win compensation|
|20 March||Chisso found guilty of negligence; Litigation Group patients win compensation|
|1977||A net is installed around Minamata Bay to prevent toxic sludge and fish from contaminating other areas|
|1 September 1997||The net surrounding Minamata Bay is removed and fish caught there are declared safe to eat|
|15 October 2004||The Supreme Court of Japan rules that the national government was responsible for not preventing the spread of Minamata disease after 1960|
Minamata disease is a neurological disease caused by severe mercury poisoning. Signs and symptoms include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, loss of peripheral 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 and may cause cerebral palsy.
Minamata is a city located in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. It is on the west coast of Kyūshū and faces Amakusa islands. Minamata was established as a village in 1889, re-designated as a town in 1912 and grew into a city in 1949. As of March 2017, the city has an estimated population of 25,310 and a population density of 160 persons per km². The total area is 162.88 km².
William Eugene Smith was an American photojournalist. He has been described as "perhaps the single most important American photographer in the development of the editorial photo essay." His major photo essays include World War II photographs, the visual stories of an American country doctor and a nurse midwife, the clinic of Albert Schweitzer in French Equatorial Africa, the city of Pittsburgh, and the pollution which damaged the health of the residents of Minamata in Japan. His 1948 series, Country Doctor, photographed for Life, is now recognized as "the first extended editorial photo story".
Methylmercury (sometimes methyl mercury) is an organometallic cation with the formula [CH3Hg]+. Methylmercury is extremely toxic, and its derivatives are the major source of organic mercury for humans. It is a bioaccumulative environmental toxicant.
The Chisso Corporation, since 2012 reorganized as JNC, is a Japanese chemical company. It is an important supplier of liquid crystal used for LCDs, but is best known for its role in the 34-year-long pollution of the water supply in Minamata, Japan that led to thousands of deaths and victims of disease.
The four big pollution diseases of Japan were a group of man-made diseases all caused by environmental pollution due to improper handling of industrial wastes by Japanese corporations. The first occurred in 1912, and the other three occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the United States, the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act was signed into law on May 13, 1996. The purpose of the law was to phase out the use of mercury in batteries and to provide for the efficient and cost-effective collection and recycling, or proper disposal, of used nickel cadmium batteries, small sealed lead-acid batteries, and certain other batteries.
Minamata is a small factory town. Minamata Bay is a bay on the west coast of Kyūshū island, located in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. The bay is part of the larger Shiranui Sea which is sandwiched between the coast of the Kyūshū mainland and the off-lying islands of Kumamoto and Nagasaki prefectures.
Tomoko and Mother in the Bath is a photograph taken by American photojournalist W. Eugene Smith in 1971. Many commentators regard Tomoko as Smith's greatest work. The black-and-white photo depicts a mother cradling her severely deformed, naked daughter in a traditional Japanese bathroom. The mother, Ryoko Kamimura, agreed to deliberately pose the startlingly intimate photograph with Smith to illustrate the terrible effects of Minamata disease on the body and mind of her daughter Tomoko Kamimura. Upon publication the photo became world-famous, significantly raising the international profile of Minamata disease and the struggle of the victims for recognition and compensation. At the wishes of Tomoko Kamimura's family, the photograph was withdrawn from further publication in 1997, 20 years after Tomoko's death.
Niigata Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Identical in symptoms to the original outbreak of Minamata disease in Kumamoto Prefecture, the second outbreak in Niigata Prefecture was confirmed with the same name in 1965. The disease was caused by severe mercury poisoning, the source of which was methylmercury released in the wastewater from mercury sulfate-catalysed acetaldehyde production at the Showa Electrical Company's chemical plant in Kanose village. This highly toxic compound was released untreated into the Agano River where it bioaccumulated up the food chain, contaminating fish which when eaten by local people caused symptoms including ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision and damage to hearing and speech.
Ontario Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. It occurred in the Canadian province of Ontario, in 1970, and severely affected two First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario following consumption of local fish contaminated with mercury, and one First Nation in Southern Ontario due to illegal disposal of industrial chemical waste. The disease was named after the infamous case of severe mercury poisoning in the fishing community of Minamata, Japan, which became known as Minamata disease because it devastated only the residents of the community.
Masazumi Harada was a Japanese doctor and medical researcher. His most famous work covered the effects of Minamata disease, a type of severe mercury poisoning that occurred in the city of Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture during the 1950s and 1960s. His publications included Minamata disease (1972) and Minamata Ga Utsusu Sekai (1989). He died June 11, 2012 of acute myelocytic leukemia at his home in Kumamoto.
The Minamata disease compensation agreements of 1959 were agreed between the polluting Chisso company and representative groups of fishermen and Minamata disease patients who had been affected by mercury pollution. The agreements and their formation shared a number of common characteristics. They were formulated outside the legal system, by ad-hoc mediation committees specially established for the purpose. Members of the committees and the final agreements were weighted in favour of Chisso and all included punitive clauses that the groups could make no future claims for compensation against the company.
The presence of mercury in fish is a health concern for people who eat them, especially for women who are or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children. Fish and shellfish concentrate mercury in their bodies, often in the form of methylmercury, a highly toxic organomercury compound. The element is known to bioaccumulate in humans, so bioaccumulation in seafood carries over into human populations, where it can result in mercury poisoning. Mercury is dangerous to both natural ecosystems and humans because it is a metal known to be highly toxic, especially due to its ability to damage the central nervous system.
The Dryden pulp mill in Dryden, Ontario has been producing one pulp product called Northern Bleached Softwood Kraft (NBSK) since 2007 when it was purchased by Domtar from Weyerhaeuser for about US$520 million. As demand for their products decreased in 2009, hundreds of workers were laid off.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The convention was a result of three years of meeting and negotiating, after which the text of the convention was approved by delegates representing close to 140 countries on 19 January 2013 in Geneva and adopted and signed later that year on 10 October 2013 at a diplomatic conference held in Kumamoto, Japan. The convention is named after the Japanese city Minamata. This naming is of symbolic importance as the city went through a devastating incident of mercury poisoning. It is expected that over the next few decades, this international agreement will enhance the reduction of mercury pollution from the targeted activities responsible for the major release of mercury to the immediate environment.
Shōzō Tanaka was a Japanese politician and social activist, and is considered to be Japan's first conservationist. Tanaka was politically active in the Meiji Restoration and leader in the Freedom and Popular Rights Movement. In Japan's first general election of 1890, he was elected to the House of Representatives as a member of the Rikken Kaishintō, a liberal political party. He is most well known for his advocacy of rural residents around the Watarase River whose health and livelihoods were negatively effected by pollution from the Ashio Copper Mine in the 1880s. Tanaka also contributed to philosophical thought on nature in the early Meiji era.
Timothy S. George is a Professor of History and Chair of the University of Rhode Island Department of History. He specializes in Postwar Japanese history, Citizen-corporation-state relations in Japan from Meiji through Shōwa, local history, and environmental history. A Fulbright Scholar, George's research has been reviewed in Environmental History, The Journal of Asian Studies, Social Science Japan Journal, and the Journal of Japanese Studies. He is a faculty affiliate of Harvard University's Program on U.S.-Japan Relations.
Minamata is a 2020 drama film directed by Andrew Levitas, based on the book of the same name by Aileen Mioko Smith and W. Eugene Smith. The film stars Johnny Depp as W. Eugene Smith, an American photographer who documented the effects of mercury poisoning on the citizens of Minamata, Kumamoto, Japan. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 21, 2020. It was released in the United States on February 11, 2022, by Samuel Goldwyn Films. At the 94th Academy Awards in 2022, the film ranked third place in the Oscars Fan Favorite contest.
Mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows, Ontario, Canada—"one of the worst cases of environmental poisoning in Canadian history" is linked to an uncontrolled discharge of between 9,000 kilograms (20,000 lb) and 11,000 kilograms (24,000 lb) of mercury Hg from the Dryden Chemical Company's chloralkali plant, into the headwaters of the 235 km (146 mi)-long Wabigoon River on Lake Wabigoon in the Kenora District of Northwestern Ontario from 1962 until 1970.