Japan Mercury Victims Get Court Award
A Japanese court awarded $1.8 million Friday to 38 victims of mercury poisoning, ruling that local and national governments should have acted sooner to stop its spread.
The plaintiffs were among an estimated 3,000 people poisoned by mercury dumped at Minamata Bay, about 570 miles southwest of Tokyo, from 1932 to 1968, the world’s most notorious episode of mercury poisoning.
Decades later, Japan’s courts are still weighing whether the government is to blame. Friday’s ruling by Kyoto District Court Judge Yozo Kogita was the third time in five rulings that the courts have decided against the government.
Chisso Corp., a chemical company, dumped an estimated 27 tons of mercury compounds into the bay over more than three decades. The mercury was ingested by fish and ultimately by people living in communities along the bay. Victims suffered symptoms including paralysis, loss of speech and hearing, convulsions and severe birth defects. Nearly half of the 3,000 people exposed have died.