It is 56 years since the government of Japan recognized the Minamata disease as poisoning of mercury attributable to the nearby chemical factory. The government processes applications of victims for certificate in compliance with the Special Act on Minamata Disease. The law sets the deadline of application, July 31, and covers 'victims' living in certain prefectures, including the Minamata region, Kumamoto Prefecture. More victims are identified, however, today beyond the areas. If the closing date is observed, potential victims will be abandoned. The date should be lifted.
CANCEL CLOSING DATE JULY 31!
Complying with the Special Act, the government processes applications for certification from sufferers of three prefectures, Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Niigata. In total 55,692 uncertified victims filed till the end of May this year since May, 2010, when the administrative procedure began. Over a thousand people a month have asked for recognition since the law set the deadline.
A health check result was made public on June 27. A medical consultation call was made by a commission of six patient groups and independent doctors, and in total 1,397 sufferers had a health check on June 24. The result shows that out of the examined 1,394 people, being excluded those for whom full papers could not be arranged, 1,216 people were diagnosed disorders of sensation, which include disturbance of sense of touch and dull feeling of pain on the hands and feet.
Every Sufferer must be Officially Recognized
Multiple disorders were found among the visitors: 26% of the 1,394 had narrowing of visual field and 33%, could not stand on single foot.
A 'victim' is defined by the law as a suffering person who is not certified as 'a patient' by the state's norm. However, the recent health check has demonstrated omissions. Those people must be certified as 'patients'.
The medical examination was conducted by the Commission of Health Check for Residents of Coastal Area of Sea of Shiranui, headed by Doctor Fujino Tadashi, in six locations in two cities of Kumamoto Prefecture, Minamata and Amakusa, and Izumi City of Kagoshima Prefecture. The staff, including 140 doctors who came to the Kyushu Island voluntarily from every corner of the country, numbered 830. Health personnel asked visitors about dietary habit and doctors checked sensory disorders on the examinees.
The visitors were young and old, ranging from 32 years old to 94. Some came from the Kinki region. Others saw a doctor from the areas beyond the coastal area which was contaminated with organic mercury. They counted 308. A relief measure is to be provided by the law to those who meet a condition of residence history; where had he/she lived until 1968 when the accused company, Chisso Corporation, stopped draining mercury-tainted waste water?
People born after December 1969 (younger than 43 years of age) within the law-covered regions are, however, excluded by the law. Sixteen people in their 30s were diagnosed last June mercury-caused disorders. A doctor team concludes that contamination lingered on even after waste water stopped running.
Previous Health Consultation Found 90% of Examinees Ill
Medical consultations have been held for a purpose to identify disease victims and elucidate truths. The previous check was made in 2009, led by Doctor Harada Masazumi (former professor of Kumamoto Gakuen University), who passed away recently. It confirmed that 90% of a thousand visitors had developed symptoms peculiar to the Minamata disease.
The health check of last June was the biggest of all, with over 2000 people wanting to see a doctor. Those who failed to do on the day will have a chance later.
Doctor Fujino says that 'the state authority sets the deadline to terminate the problem, but in fact Minamata disease has not yet ended. More and more victims have been identified. Every one of them, without exception, must be certified for relief'.
The special law certifies victims, not patients, paying 2.1 million Yen a person as a relief fund, not as compensation. The state authority, Ministry of Environment, must cancel immediately the deadline July 31 of application for certification as it prevents sufferers from seeking relief. The government must review the norms of certification and have a new, fundamental scheme to help victims.
July 10, 2012