Mercury poisoning first showed up more than twenty years ago in the small Japanese coastal town of Minamata those population had eaten contaminated seafood.
GV People buying fish in Tokyo market (3 shots)
GV Minamate town
GV Victims of industrial pollution walking down slope (2 shots)
CU & GV Miss Tanakabeing spoonfed (2 shots)
MV Photograph of dead sister
CU Miss Tanaka
GV Miss Kamimura lying in bed
GV Chemical plant
GV Chemical plant TILT DOWN TO CU industrial waste outlet (3 shots)
GV Chemical plant
GV Minamate Bay and port (3 shots)
GV Victims walking down slope
GV & CU Miss Tanaka by window (3 shots)
COMMENTATOR: "People in Japan are eyeing their fish and seafood suspiciously these days, wondering how much mercury is contained in the seafood they eat. Tests on some Tokyo residents show an alarmingly high content of mercury among those who eat a lot of fish. It is believed that the fish are contaminated by mercury from industrial water pollution. There have been no cases of mercury pollution in the cities. But people are concerned. With good reason. They all know what happened in this little coastal village of Minamata City. In 1953 people here began coming down with a strange illness which affected the nervous system, causing withered limbs and inability to walk straight, the loss of speech, hearing, sight and in some cases ... death. Juiko Tanaka is twenty years old, but she doesn't look it. She certainly doesn't act it. She became a Minamata victim when she was three. Her sister died of the disease when she was seven. There's a shrine in her memory in the family home. There is no hope that Juiko will recover. She will be like this until she dies. She is still better off than eighteen year old Timoka Kamimura. She has had Minamata disease since birth. Her mother had eaten the contaminated fish. The disease was traced to the town's principal industry ... the Chisso Chemical Plant. It was discharging organic mercury waste into the waters of Minamata Bay. The Company refused to admit it. The Government did nothing. It took fifteen years before the Minamata disease was officially recognised as pollution-caused. But it wasn't until the end of May last year that fishing here was prohibited. Still the Company refused to admit it was at fault. It took protest, violence, and a long Court suit. But finally, last year, five hundred victims were awarded 64 thousand dollars each ... a settlement from the Chisso Corporation. It makes you wonder if any lesson had been learned from all this suffering and pain. Or could it happen again somewhere else?"
Initials BB/2206 WK/AH/BB/2231
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Mercury poisoning first showed up more than twenty years ago in the small Japanese coastal town of Minamata those population had eaten contaminated seafood. Since then many deaths have occurred in the United States, Japan, Canada, Sweden and elsewhere from the consumption of fish caught in Japan's contaminated seas and animals fed on grain treated with mercury.
Although the danger has been known for two decades, it was only towards the end May last year that fishing in Minamata Bay was prohibited. It was last year, too, that a District Court in Central Kyushu awarded substantial damages to victims of mercury poisoning in Minamata.
The victims of mercury poisoning, or Minamata disease, as it is known in Japan, suffer paralyans of the limbs, narrow vision, deafness, speech impediments and other symptoms.
The danger of mercury poisoning has now been realised on a world-wide scale, and steps to counter it have been taken by many countries.