Japanese Mercury Safety Advocates Decry Deficient Gov Testing of Dolphin-Eating Citizens

Share Article

Although many international studies show serious cardiac, neurological and developmental impacts from relatively low levels of mercury contamination, Japanese government doctors professed they could find nothing wrong with highly contaminated Taiji, Wakayama citizens who ate mercury-toxic dolphin meat. It is noteworthy that Japan's researchers avoided critical tests on children that led Faroe Island gov doctors to call for a total ban on cetacean consumption even though dolphin mercury levels are many times higher in Japan.

Japan's Suigin Iranai ("No More Mercury Poisoning") Campaign today responded to the National Institute for Minamata Disease's May 9 press conference stating that no significant health effects were observed despite high mercury levels in Taiji, Wakayama residents.

The National Institute for Minamata Disease (NIMD) held a press conference in Taiji, Wakayama on May 9, 2010 to announce the results of its health tests on nearly 200 Taiji citizens who showed high levels of mercury in hair tests conducted last year. Taiji has recently become a target of international criticism and concern due to its continuing mass slaughter and consumption of mercury contaminated dolphins and pilot whales.

A number of the tested subjects showed readings of 50 ppm (parts per million) mercury in their systems, approximately 125 times higher than Japan's 0.4 ppm legal limit for consumable fish and 500 times higher than levels deemed safe for humans by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Nevertheless, the government doctors reported today that none of the Taiji subjects showed any adverse effects whatever from all this internal toxicity. They said they would continue to study the situation, but for now everything is fine and residents should not be concerned.

Suigin Iranai researchers will offer a more detailed analysis of these claims and their supporting data in the coming days. Initially, however, there are serious concerns that only one relatively inexperienced physician seemed to be assigned to do the most sensitive neurological assessments for the entire test population, and most importantly that infants and young children were not adequately tested for neural development disorders, learning disabilities or IQ impairments.

The NIMD doctors made no reference whatever to recent widely reported studies by Faroe Island researchers* who did find harmful impairments from mercury-contaminated cetacean consumption when they responsibly included tests of children's memory, language, visual-spatial abilities, and reaction times. Nor did NIMD doctors attempt any such testing of their own.

The subtle insidious damage mercury inflicts upon the youngest is the most tragic toll of this toxin and it deserves the most preventative and clinical attention. Indeed until there is reliable data on Taiji's current prenatal and post-natal exposure as well as their local neurodevelopment indices, all official assurances of harmlessness may be criminally premature. Given that adult humans who are 50 to 100 times more mercury-toxic than banned fish are not uncommon in the Taiji region, the potential risk to fetuses, infants and toddlers is quite obvious and inexcusable.

It is rather curious and disappointing that Japan's government and medical establishment cannot or will not show the leadership or protective care that we witness in Denmark's rural Faroe Islands when an even less serious threat is recognized.

Denmark's Faroe Islanders also have a long tradition of eating cetaceans, particularly pilot whales. However, their local government doctors are now aggressively pushing for a total ban on human consumption of these animals due to their increasing mercury and PCB toxicity. The following is excerpted from one of their recent advisory letters.

"The growing scientific documentation has, during recent years, given rise to the anticipation that the time was approaching when it would be appropriate to recommend against human consumption of pilot whale meat and blubber. From the latest research results, the undersigned consider that the conclusion from a human health perspective must be as follows:


"It is with great sadness that this recommendation is provided... But the times and environment are changing, and we therefore believe that this recommendation is necessary from a human health point of view..." - Sincerely, Høgni Debes Joensen, MD, Chief Medical Officer, and Pál Weihe, MD, Chief Physician, Landslægen (See full text at http://suigin-iranai.jp/en/archives/462 )

In Japan, however, government doctors are still defending rather than protesting the continued consumption of cetacean meat even though the contamination levels of Taiji's pilot whales are in fact many times higher than those in the Faroe Islands.

Recent research by Hoydal and Dam*, for example, shows Faroe pilot whale meat only contains about 3.3 ppm methyl mercury whereas Dr. Tetsuya Endo's parallel studies in Japan** show coastal pilot whales typically contain mercury concentrations of 23.1 ppm.

After the sluggish, shameful and now well-known history of Japan's official medical response to the Minamata disaster, it is difficult to understand the current government's unwillingness to invoke the precautionary principle and prohibit mercury contaminated meat consumption until all infants and children are adequately tested and risks are fully known.

The Suigin Iranai ("No More Mercury Poisoning") Campaign therefore encourages the media and citizens, especially parents, to look beyond official assurances and study this issue far more deeply on their own and decide for themselves whether Japan should also ban such hazardous toxin sources to protect public health and their children's mental growth and development.

For more information on this critical subject, readers are referred to the bilingual http://www.suigin-iranai.jp website.

Japan's Suigin Iranai ("No More Mercury Poisoning") Campaign is run by a network of concerned researchers, journalists and activists. Its suigin-iranai.jp website is dedicated to public education and offers interested citizens vital news and reports to help them understand the sources and very real dangers of mercury in our diet and environment today.

** http://suigin-iranai.jp/docs/Faroe%20Islands%20Heavy%20Metals%20Study.pdf
*** http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es034055n

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kyoko Tanaka
Visit website