Second Minamata Disease (Niigata Minamata Disease)

In Japan, in addition to the outbreak in Minamata City, there was another outbreak of a neurological syndrome caused by methylmercury in Niigata in 1965.

In Japan, in addition to the outbreak in Minamata City, there was another outbreak of a neurological syndrome caused by methylmercury in Niigata in 1965. It occurred in the lower reach of the Agano River and was called Agano River Organic Mercury Poisoning and is sometimes referred as the Second Minamata Disease or Niigata Minamata Disease. Similar to the outbreak in Minamata City, methylmercury in wastewater released to rivers accumulated in the aquatic life and was taken in by humans and caused various symptoms.

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

The Niigata Minamata Disease outbreak was first recognized in 1965, 9 years after Minamata disease outbreak in Kumamoto. The delay of the investigation into the cause of Minamata disease led to the second outbreak caused by the same methylmercury.

The number of patients determined by the Japanese government to have Niigata Minamata Disease is 690, but even after receiving compensation, the tragedy still continued. They were slandered as if they pretended to have the disease for the purpose of receiving compensation. Niigata Minamata Disease devastated the region by breaking the bonds between residents. For the years to come it will be essential to repair the broken relationships using the lessons learned from the disaster.

For the 50-year milestone of official recognition of Niigata Minamata Disease, Niigata prefecture announced a declaration to fix the broken bonds in the community and teach people about the history of the disease. http://www.pref.niigata.lg.jp/seikatueisei/1356814151492.html

In their determination they declare:
"We will spread this information on the Niigata Minamata Disease to the world to build a community where everyone can live with peace of mind and where such terrible disasters will never be repeated again"

Japan is responsible to promote mercury-free living due to its two experiences with Minamata Disease caused by mercury pollution.