For centuries, people have known that mercury is a poisonous element. But only in recent years have we seen the full impact that mercury poisoning can have on humans. When inhaled or ingested, mercury viciously attacks the nervous system.
Exposure to large quantities over a long period of time can cause irreparable brain damage, eventually resulting in death. In the 20th century, the industrial city of Minamata, Japan, was devastated by mercury poisoning.
Starting in 1956, people suffering from a strange disease began arriving at local hospitals.
Doctors likened their symptoms to those associated with epilepsy.
Physicians had no idea what to make of it, so they quarantined patients.
Despite their efforts, afflicted individuals kept showing up. It was at this time that the local government ordered an investigation of the so-called “Minamata disease.”
After an intense round of testing, it was eventually concluded that the cause of Minamata disease was actually extreme mercury poisoning.
Attention soon turned to the Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory.
Further investigations concluded that mercury was being dumped by the Chisso Corporation into Minamata Bay. The chemical was being absorbed by fish and shellfish in the bay, which were then eaten by locals.
Despite this shocking revelation, the company continued to dump mercury-riddled waste water until 1968.
As of 2001, an estimated 2,100 people were affected by the condition. Half of them died.
In 2004, the Chisso Corporation paid $86 million to compensate victims.
That same year, the company was ordered by the government to clean up Minamata Bay. If you visit Minamata today, you’ll find various memorial sites that pay tribute to the victims of this disease.
For some disturbing footage of this disease’s impact, check out the video below:
That is utterly terrifying. The worst part is that the Chisso Corporation knew exactly what they were doing, and they just kept on doing it. That’s the definition of insanity.