Minamata disease, which began more than sixty years ago, was caused by highly concentrated methylmercury contained in factory wastewater.
Neither the Administration nor the Chisso Corporation, which caused Minamata disease through its release of toxic effluents, carried out any systematic research into Minamata disease and the dangers connected with methylmercury. It did not provide local inhabitants or the people of Japan with correct information either. As a result of this cover-up and the incomplete information about Minamata disease many victims of the disease were discriminated against. Because of this discrimination many of the victims were afraid to talk about it. There were also a large number of people who were suffering from varying degrees of health impairment, who did not realize that their troubles had been caused by methylmercury.
Especially those who lived around Minamata during the periods of heavy pollution and who moved to live in other areas of Japan have little information, and still suffer from symptoms of the disease, without realizing the cause. Unfortunately it seems that neither the Government nor other parties involved have learned any lessons from the disaster.
Since the outbreak of Minamata disease and the attempts to deny its existence as well as attempts to avoid compensating victims, other examples of administrational negligence and attempted cover-ups have continued to surface in Japan. Not only in badly constructed buildings, railroad accidents, food contamination etc. but also as recently as 2011, when in March of that year the Japanese Government together with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) showed very clearly that they had learned no lessons from the Minamata disaster. From the very beginning of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima, they withheld important information about the gravity of the situation.
The “No More Minamata” lawsuit, an action brought about by uncertified Minamata disease patients in October, 2005, was resolved in March, 2011. In this reconciliation, the Government, which had not previously recognized the uncertified Minamata disease patients, finally recognized plaintiffs as Minamata disease victims and provided compensation for such patients according to the “Law concerning Special Measures for Minamata Disease as Minamata Disease Victims”.
However, even with these measures, there are still many inhabitants who suffered and who are not receiving compensation. To resolve this problem, in depth research into the full extent of the actual damage needs to be done by the Government. It turns out that even concentrations of methylmercury that are much lower than the concentration which caused Minamata disease in the people who are on relief measures can cause damage to the central nervous system. We are constantly demanding that the Government should study the environment of this area and the impact of methylmercury on the human body in order not only to help and compensate the sufferers but also to clarify the, now global, problems caused by toxicity of mercury.