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Disease first identified in 1956 in Minamata, Japan. A fishing port, Minamata was also the home of Nippon Chisso Hiryo Co., a manufacturer of chemical fertilizer, carbide, and vinyl chloride. Methyl mercury discharged from the factory contaminated fish and shellfish, which in turn caused illness in the local inhabitants who consumed them and birth defects in their children. The sometimes fatal disease was the first whose cause was recognized as industrial pollution of seawater. It aroused worldwide concern and stimulated the development of the environmental movement.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Minamata disease, visit Britannica.com.