History of Minamata Disease.
In 1908 the Chisso Corporation, a major chemical manufacturer in Japan, opened a nitrogenous fertilizer factory in the small fishing town of Minamata (figure 1). Over time the corporation chose to branch out and began producing other chemicals such as acetylene, acetic acid, vinyl chloride and octanol. The waste product from these chemicals was released into Minamata Bay via the factories wastewater system, causing major damage to the fisheries; reducing their catch sizes by up to 91%.
In 1932 the Chisso Corporation began manufacturing a chemical known as acetaldehyde (C2H4O), also known as ethanal. By 1951 production of C2H4O had jumped from 210 pounds produced in the first year of manufacturing to 6,000 tons per year. Although the large quantities of production were good for the Chisso Corporation, the effects of chemical production were beginning to effect the ecosystem and the organisms within.
The reaction used to make C2H4O requires mercury sulfate (HgSO4) as a catalyst and in 1951 Chisso changed the co-catalyst from manganese dioxide (MnO2) to ferric sulfide (FeS2). When mercury sulfate and ferric sulfide react, small amounts of a highly toxic, organic mercury compound known as methylmercury (CH3Hg+ or MeHg+) is produced as a by-product (figure 2)
As previously mentioned, Chisso was releasing their waste through the wastewater and into Minamata Bay; among this waste was the methylmercury produced in the manufacturing of C2H4O.
On the 21st April, 1956, a five-year-old girl was admitted to the Shin Nippon Chisso Fertilizer Co. factory hospital with severe complaints including the inability to talk, walk or eat. Soon after, three more, ...
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...Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methylmercury#Environmental_sources. [Accessed 01 April 2014].
The Poisoning of Minamata . 2014. The Poisoning of Minamata . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www1.umn.edu/ships/ethics/minamata.htm. [Accessed 04 April 2014].
File:Minamata map illustrating Chisso factory effluent routes2.png - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2014. File:Minamata map illustrating Chisso factory effluent routes2.png - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Minamata_map_illustrating_Chisso_factory_effluent_routes2.png. [Accessed 04 April 2014].
Methylmercury Contamination in Fish, CSA - Discovery Guides. 2014. Methylmercury Contamination in Fish, CSA - Discovery Guides. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/mercury/review5.php. [Accessed 04 April 2014].
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