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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 October 12 - 18  > Doctors: gov’t should widen criteria for recipients of Minamata disease relief measures
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2016 October 12 - 18 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Doctors: gov’t should widen criteria for recipients of Minamata disease relief measures

October 15, 2016
A group of doctors on October 14 published a survey result that sufferers of the pollution-caused Minamata disease are found in a much wider area than the current government assumption. They said that the government should review its area-based criteria for screening applicants for state relief measures.

Minamata disease is one of the major pollution-induced diseases in Japan. It was caused by organic mercury in waste water discharged from a Chisso Corp. plant into Minamata Bay in Kumamoto Prefecture during the 1950s and 1960s. The disease has killed hundreds of people, disabled thousands, and produced many birth defects in Kumamoto’s Minamata City.

The government is offering relief measures for people suffering from Minamata disease. However, eligible applicants for these measures are restricted to those who lived for more than one year before the end of 1968 in the areas where the government designated as highly polluted. In other words, the government has refused to provide support for those who are suffering from Minamata disease-like symptoms but do not meet the time and area-based criteria.

The doctors’ group reviewed the medical checkup records of about 10,000 residents in areas near Minamata Bay, including areas that the government did not designate as highly polluted. They found that the percentage of people who have Minamata-disease-like symptoms inside the state-designated areas is not so different from the percentage outside those areas. For example, the percentage of those who have difficulties in feeling pain was 88% inside the areas and 84% outside. The percentages of those who cannot speak well and of those who have narrowed visual field were 21% and 27% respectively, both inside and outside the areas.

Representatives of the doctors’ group at a press conference held in Minamata City on the same day stressed that the survey results again highlighted how groundless the government’s area-based criteria are. They said that the government should provide support for all Minamata disease sufferers.

Past related articles:
> Abe’s ‘Minamata disease eliminated’ remark receives criticism from victims [October 11, 2013]
> Court’s designation of woman as Minamata disease patient finalized [May 3, 2013]
> JCP proposes relief for all Minamata disease patients [March 20 & 24, 2009]
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