Mercury Poisoning and others

"As mercury destroyed their nerve cells, patients lost sensation and motor control, and their limbs become contorted."

In 1908, Chisso Corporation first opened a chemical factory in Minamata. The waste products resulting from the manufacture of chemicals were released into Minamata Bay in the factory wastewater.

This inevitably led to environmental pollution of the seawater that led to decreased fisheries. It was nothing serious, when the issue was resolved with two compensation agreements given by the Chisso Corporation

Trouble silently brew when Chisso started acetaldehyde production in 1932. The waste product was a highly toxic compound known as methyl mercury.

At first, people observed the unexplainable behaviour of wildly acting cats that slowly spread to fishermen and their families who were the earliest and most severely afflicted. They could not make sense of what was happening except for the fact that both victims consumed the greatest amount of fish.

For the fishermen, the sea was life-giving. It was hard for the fishermen to commprehend that the sea could also take life away. One fishermen expressed his love of the sea:

When I thought I was dying
and my hands were numb
and wouldn't work-
and my father was dying too- when
the villagers turned against us-
it was to the sea
I would go to cry.
No one can understand
why I love the sea so much.
The sea
has never abandoned me.
The sea
is the blood of my veins.

Indeed, it was the poison in the food from the sea that also flowed in his blood, that would take his very life away.
The mercury poison from the waste water had poisoned both the environment and the people.

In this case, we see how environmental pollution caused by the people has affected both the environment and its people adversely. This is the case as to what is happening in the world now-Environmental damage by the people for the people.

Though the "adverse effects" may not be obvious now, little environmental damaging things we do everyday accumulate itself to become an unreversible damage to the environment and ultimately to the Earth and us. Examples would include the simplest act of throwing rubbish into rubbish bins. We do not even need to talk about categorizing the rubbish for easy separation.

When you stop admiring Mt Everest and gaze down...What a shock! Perhaps 10-20 years down the road, we may not see people dying like in Minamata, but who knows, the toxic fumes from land pollution and air pollution (which includes smoking) will be passed down to the child when he is born.
That was also what happened to those in Minamata, where their child suffered from severe cerberal palsy when born.

Global efforts such as the Kyoto Protocol, UNEP and Greenpeace with many other private environmental organizations all around the world in tow, there is no reason to say, "My lone efforts are useless" There are many supporting organizations for environmental conservation and it all starts with you! Cliche it might sound, but little drops of water makes a mighty ocean and every effort contributes to improve or at least maintains the environment.

In Minamata's case, because the people ostricized those who became sick instead of helping them to find the cause, they were not able to quickly alert the authorities who were not aware it was the factory's fault. This led to continued productions of highly-toxic methyl mercury that extended the damage.

Thus cooperation amongst people is vital in stopping such hazardous wastes from harming the environment and us and so let us cast away our selfish interests that will eventually harm us in the end. As the saying goes, What goes around, comes around!

Wikipedia for information on Minamata Disease
"The Tragedy & Triumph of Minamata" by Douglas Allchin for the picture

By Kee Hui Xi, 10A05

No comments: