Survey of the extent of the persisting effects of methylmercury pollution on the inhabitants around the Shiranui Sea, Japan

Shigeru Takaoka, Tadashi Fujino, Yoshinobu Kawakami, Shin Ichi Shigeoka, Takashi Yorifuji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In 1956 methylmercury poisoning, known as Minamata disease, was discovered among the inhabitants around the Shiranui Sea, Kyushu, Japan. Although about five hundred thousand people living in the area had supposedly been exposed to methylmercury, administrative agencies and research institutes had not performed any subsequent large scale, continuous health examination, so the actual extent of the negative health effects was not clearly documented. In 2009, we performed health surveys in order to examine residents in the polluted area and to research the extent of the polluted area and period of pollution. We analyzed data collected on 973 people (age = 62.3 ± 11.7) who had lived in the polluted area and had eaten the fish there and a control group, consisting of 142 persons (age = 62.0 ± 10.5), most of whom had not lived in the polluted area. Symptoms and neurological signs were statistically more prevalent in the four groups than in the control group and were more prevalent and severe in those who had eaten most fish. The patterns of positive findings of symptoms and neurological findings in the four groups were similar. Our data indicates that Minamata disease had spread outside of the central area and could still be observed recently, almost 50 years after the Chisso Company's factory had halted the dumping of mercury polluted waste water back in 1968.

Original languageEnglish
Article number39
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 20 2018


  • Correlation of signs and symptoms
  • Delayed toxicity
  • Dose-response relationship
  • Long term exposure
  • Methylmercury
  • Neurological findings
  • Severity
  • Symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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