Mercury Contamination Facts
Mercury and methylmercury have been the subject of much research in the last half century. There have been local, national and international conferences, research studies and many reports of various kinds.
For example, the American Environmental Protection Agency published a report of some 2000 pages on the state of mercury and methylmercury compounds. Where do they come from, what are their health effects, how are the bad effects controlled, what are the costs from damage they cause to society?
These kinds of studies are now called epidemiology; causes of disease; keeping watch over diseases; as well as measures to control threats to health. As may be expected,
some of the earliest studies came out of Japanese research facilities.
The Nigata Report (1967)
is available in Japanese in Japan.
The Minimata Report (1968)
lists 182 papers and reports published by Kumamoto University in Japan. This report shows that between 1953 and 1965, 111 patients had been diagnosed with Minimata disease. Forty-one died. There was, however, a big increase in the 0 to 9 years age group. 22 of these children got poisoning of the fetus during pregnancy. Mothers had eaten fish and shellfish affected by mercury poisoning
In 1967, the Swedish Government
ordered a study of health risks caused by the eating of fish affected by mercury/methylmercury contamination. Tests of fish showed elevated levels of toxins in some bodies of water. Many industries were using mercury in different ways, in the manufacture of cellulose, in the chlorine industry, in the electrical industry to make switches, fluorescent lamps, dry batteries, in the paint industry, in the making of instruments such as thermometers, barometers and aerometers. Hospital drains were also affected.
Sweden had started the use of mercury in agriculture as a fungicide to prevent damage to seed grain. Mercury compounds were used to treat fruit trees. In 1966, the government banned the use of these chemicals after scientists discovered toxic effects on birds.
In addition to the Ontario Royal Commission on the Northern Environment
, there was a significant study done by McGill University
. It focused on Crees living in northwestern Quebec. 9,592 members of the Great Whale River, Mistassini and Waswanipi First Nations were subjects of study.
Other studies are identified. A study in New Zealand
focused on children who were exposed to methylmercury while in the mothers’ womb. 11,000 new mothers and babies were examined. 1,000 women reported eating fish at least three times a week. Children whose mothers’ hair samples averaged 13-15 mgs/kg (milligrams per kilogram) showed poorer results in intelligence tests than is normal.
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