Minamata Disease: Pollute Nature and It Will Pollute Your Future

In the course of development the humans have exploited environment to a level from where the recovery is really tough. The major environmental threat is from pollution which is daily spreading its web from water to sky. Pollution not only has detrimental effect on environment but has serious negative effects on humans also and one such deleterious effect of pollution on human is MINAMATA DISEASE.

What is Minimata Disease?
Minamata disease is a disease of the central nervous system that occurs because of the methyl mercury poisoning and which is caused by the consumption of fish and shellfish contaminated with methyl mercury compounds discharged in waste water from a chemical plant.

Minamata disease was first discovered in Minamata City in Kumamoto prefecture, Japanin 1956. It was caused by the release of methyl mercury in the industrial waste water from the Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory, which continued from 1932 to 1968. This highly toxic chemical bio accumulated in shellfish and fish in Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea, which when eaten by the local population resulted in mercury poisoning.
Tragedy that still haunts the survivors

Just 528 people survive from among the 3,000 certified victims of Minamata disease, environment ministry data shows. More than 20,000 people have sought to be designated victims, hoping for legal compensation. Born in a family of shipbuilders whose home overlooks the Minamata bay, Jitsuko Tanaka, 64, used to play on the beach with her older sister, picking and eating shell fish, unaware it was contaminated with mercury. She was almost three, and her sister five, when they lost the ability to move their hands freely and walk properly, becoming the first to be identified as disease sufferers. Tanaka’s older sister died at age eight. Tanaka survived, but the poisoning left her too weak to walk without support. A few years ago, her family says, even that became impossible. As she lay motionless in bed, her brother-in-law, a fellow sufferer, said he worried about the patients left behind when family members die.

Symptoms of Minimata Disease
• Severe uncontrollable tremors
• Loss of motor control
• Sensory loss affecting both auditory and visual senses
• Partial paralysis
• Loss of muscle control during voluntary movements, known as ataxia
• Numbness in the extremities like the hands and feet
• Speech impairment may also be observed
• Infants will display symptoms that are similar to those afflicted with cerebral palsy, which is not surprising as it is results in impaired neurological development and causes seizures.
• Growth and developmental problems with both physical and mental health
• Microcephaly, a neuro developmental disorder, in children
• Mental retardation

How to diagnosethe Minimata Disease
Mercury poisoning is most often diagnosed with a laboratory measuring mercury levels in a hair sample. This is obviously non-invasive and is a very straightforward procedure. If you live in an area where there have been cases of mercury poisoning or if there is a sudden rise in similar cases with symptoms resembling those of mercury poisoning, health care providers would most likely request testing.

Possible way to treat Minimata Disease
Causative treatments, involving patients taking medicines to force methyl mercury to be excreted from the body, are applied in the initial stages. However, a fundamental cure for Minamata disease has not yet been found. The main treatments involve the temporary relief of symptoms (symptomatic therapy), and rehabilitation (physiotherapy and occupational therapy

Take home note from learning about Minamata Disease
Mass production, mass consumption, and mass waste make our lives more convenient and prosperous. Yet, our environment and health are suffering, surrounded by exhaust fumes, agricultural chemicals, food preservatives, and various toxic substances. We can not think about our rich materialistic lives without referring to the relationships we have with other countries. Minamata disease tells us that human beings can be the perpetrators as well as the victims.

Minamata disease also tell us: to coexist with nature, based on the idea that we are living thanks to nature; to think about the relations among people, rivers, and the sea; to think about food which is safe; to decrease home and industrial waste and to grapple with recycling; and to tackle global problems.

By – Nursing Tutor – Mrs. Deepika
Department of Nursing
Magazine (YouthRainBow)- Uttaranchal (P.G.) College Of Bio-Medical Sciences & Hospital
Uttaranchal (P.G.) College Of Bio-Medical Sciences & Hospital
Uttaranchal College of Education
College Of Nursing UCBMSH

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