Temporal trends of infant and birth outcomes in Minamata after severe methylmercury exposure

Takashi Yorifuji, Saori Kashima, Made Ayu Hitapretiwi Suryadhi, Kawuli Abudureyimu

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Severe methylmercury poisoning occurred in Minamata and neighboring communities in Japan during the 1950s and 1960s, causing what is known as Minamata disease. Although an increase in stillbirths and a reduced male proportion at birth (i.e., reduced sex ratio) have been reported, no studies have evaluated the impact of exposure on an entire set of infant and birth outcomes. We therefore evaluated the temporal trends of these outcomes in the Minamata area from 1950 to 1974. We focused on the spontaneous/artificial stillbirth rate, crude fertility rate, male proportion at birth, male proportion among stillbirths, and infant mortality. We obtained the number of stillbirths, live births, and infant deaths in Minamata City and Kumamoto Prefecture (as a reference) from 1950 to 1974. After plotting annual figures for each outcome, we divided the study period into five intervals and compared them between Minamata City and Kumamoto Prefecture using the chi-squared test. We observed a slightly increased spontaneous stillbirth rate and decreased artificial stillbirth rate in Minamata City, followed by a reduced crude fertility rate. The crude fertility rates in Minamata City during the period 1955–1965 were significantly lower compared with those in Kumamoto Prefecture (p < 0.001). An increase in the male proportion among stillbirths was observed, corresponding to a reduction in the proportion of males at birth in the late 1950s. The impact on infant mortality was equivocal. These descriptive analyses demonstrate a severe regional impact of methylmercury exposure on a series of birth outcomes in the Minamata area. A severe regional exposure to methylmercury in Minamata, Japan, in the 1950s and 1960s affected several birth outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1586-1592
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Birth rate
  • Environmental pollution
  • Food contamination
  • Infant mortality
  • Methylmercury poisoning
  • Minamata disease
  • Sex ratio
  • Stillbirth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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