The Facts Behind Minamata Convention on Mercury

The Convention is named after the Japanese city, Minamata (located in southernmost tip of Kumamoto prefecture). This naming is of symbolic importance as Minamata city went through a devastating incident of mercury poisoning, Minamata disease.

Minamata disease is a disease of the central nervous system, caused by the consumption of fish and shellfish contaminated with methyl mercury compounds discharged into the environment as factory waste etc. and then accumulating in the marine life.

Location of Minamata City
Pathway of methylmercury from factory to human

The first recognized outbreaks occurred around Minamata Bay in 1956. Over 12,000 people have been officially recognized as patients affected by mercury.

Major Symptoms of Minamata Disease

  • Loss of sensation in the hands and feet
  • Difficulty coordinating movement of hands and feet
  • Narrowing of the field of vision
  • Impairment of faculties for maintaining balance
  • Speech becomes slurred and unclear
  • Eye movement becomes erratic

Now overcoming the problems brought by Minamata disease, the City of Minamata, despite its size, is promoting an Environmental Model City in order to construct a resource circulation society while aiming at a warm and comfortable environmentally conscious city.
Minamata city established the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum in 1993, to pass on the invaluable lessons of Minamata disease as a warning to future generations.

Having experienced Minamata disease, we, the citizens of Japan, believe it is our responsibility to pass on the lessons of this tragedy to all peoples.

Minamata bay restored area
Minamata disease municipal museum
  • * All of texts about Minamata City and Minamata disease were specially provided by the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum.