What has methylmercury in umbilical cords told us? - Minamata disease

Takashi Yorifuji, Saori Kashima, Toshihide Tsuda, Masazumi Harada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Severe methylmercury poisoning occurred in Minamata and neighboring communities in the 1950s and 1960s. The exposed patients manifested neurological signs, and some patients exposed in utero were born with so-called congenital Minamata disease. In a previous report, Nishigaki and Harada evaluated the methylmercury concentrations in the umbilical cords of inhabitants and demonstrated that methylmercury actually passed through the placenta (Nishigaki and Harada, 1975). However, the report involved a limited number of cases (only 35) and did not quantitatively evaluate the regional differences in the transition of methylmercury exposure. Therefore, in the present study, we evaluated the temporal and spatial distributions of methylmercury concentrations in umbilical cords, with an increased number of participants and additional descriptive analyses. Then, we examined whether the methylmercury concentrations corresponded with the history of the Minamata disease incident. A total of 278 umbilical cord specimens collected after birth were obtained from babies born between 1925 and 1980 in four study areas exposed to methylmercury. Then, we conducted descriptive analyses, and drew scatterplots of the methylmercury concentrations of all the participants and separated by the areas. In the Minamata area, where the first patient was identified in 1956, the methylmercury concentration reached a peak around 1955. Subsequently, about 5 years later, the concentrations peaked in other exposed areas with the expected exposure distribution corresponding with acetaldehyde production (the origin of methylmercury). This historical incident several decades ago in Minamata and neighboring communities clearly shows that regional pollution affected the environment in utero. Furthermore, the temporal and spatial distributions of the methylmercury concentrations in the umbilical cords tell us the history of the Minamata disease incident.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-276
Number of pages5
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume408
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 20 2009

Fingerprint

methylmercury
Spatial distribution
Acetaldehyde
Pollution
temporal distribution
spatial distribution
acetaldehyde
history
poisoning
pollution

Keywords

  • Environmental pollution
  • Methylmercury poisoning
  • Minamata disease
  • Umbilical cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering

Cite this

What has methylmercury in umbilical cords told us? - Minamata disease. / Yorifuji, Takashi; Kashima, Saori; Tsuda, Toshihide; Harada, Masazumi.

In: Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 408, No. 2, 20.12.2009, p. 272-276.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{fb699a0893df4e11bfaef2e6aa467f10,
title = "What has methylmercury in umbilical cords told us? - Minamata disease",
abstract = "Severe methylmercury poisoning occurred in Minamata and neighboring communities in the 1950s and 1960s. The exposed patients manifested neurological signs, and some patients exposed in utero were born with so-called congenital Minamata disease. In a previous report, Nishigaki and Harada evaluated the methylmercury concentrations in the umbilical cords of inhabitants and demonstrated that methylmercury actually passed through the placenta (Nishigaki and Harada, 1975). However, the report involved a limited number of cases (only 35) and did not quantitatively evaluate the regional differences in the transition of methylmercury exposure. Therefore, in the present study, we evaluated the temporal and spatial distributions of methylmercury concentrations in umbilical cords, with an increased number of participants and additional descriptive analyses. Then, we examined whether the methylmercury concentrations corresponded with the history of the Minamata disease incident. A total of 278 umbilical cord specimens collected after birth were obtained from babies born between 1925 and 1980 in four study areas exposed to methylmercury. Then, we conducted descriptive analyses, and drew scatterplots of the methylmercury concentrations of all the participants and separated by the areas. In the Minamata area, where the first patient was identified in 1956, the methylmercury concentration reached a peak around 1955. Subsequently, about 5 years later, the concentrations peaked in other exposed areas with the expected exposure distribution corresponding with acetaldehyde production (the origin of methylmercury). This historical incident several decades ago in Minamata and neighboring communities clearly shows that regional pollution affected the environment in utero. Furthermore, the temporal and spatial distributions of the methylmercury concentrations in the umbilical cords tell us the history of the Minamata disease incident.",
keywords = "Environmental pollution, Methylmercury poisoning, Minamata disease, Umbilical cord",
author = "Takashi Yorifuji and Saori Kashima and Toshihide Tsuda and Masazumi Harada",
year = "2009",
month = "12",
day = "20",
doi = "10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.10.011",
language = "English",
volume = "408",
pages = "272--276",
journal = "Science of the Total Environment",
issn = "0048-9697",
publisher = "Elsevier",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - What has methylmercury in umbilical cords told us? - Minamata disease

AU - Yorifuji, Takashi

AU - Kashima, Saori

AU - Tsuda, Toshihide

AU - Harada, Masazumi

PY - 2009/12/20

Y1 - 2009/12/20

N2 - Severe methylmercury poisoning occurred in Minamata and neighboring communities in the 1950s and 1960s. The exposed patients manifested neurological signs, and some patients exposed in utero were born with so-called congenital Minamata disease. In a previous report, Nishigaki and Harada evaluated the methylmercury concentrations in the umbilical cords of inhabitants and demonstrated that methylmercury actually passed through the placenta (Nishigaki and Harada, 1975). However, the report involved a limited number of cases (only 35) and did not quantitatively evaluate the regional differences in the transition of methylmercury exposure. Therefore, in the present study, we evaluated the temporal and spatial distributions of methylmercury concentrations in umbilical cords, with an increased number of participants and additional descriptive analyses. Then, we examined whether the methylmercury concentrations corresponded with the history of the Minamata disease incident. A total of 278 umbilical cord specimens collected after birth were obtained from babies born between 1925 and 1980 in four study areas exposed to methylmercury. Then, we conducted descriptive analyses, and drew scatterplots of the methylmercury concentrations of all the participants and separated by the areas. In the Minamata area, where the first patient was identified in 1956, the methylmercury concentration reached a peak around 1955. Subsequently, about 5 years later, the concentrations peaked in other exposed areas with the expected exposure distribution corresponding with acetaldehyde production (the origin of methylmercury). This historical incident several decades ago in Minamata and neighboring communities clearly shows that regional pollution affected the environment in utero. Furthermore, the temporal and spatial distributions of the methylmercury concentrations in the umbilical cords tell us the history of the Minamata disease incident.

AB - Severe methylmercury poisoning occurred in Minamata and neighboring communities in the 1950s and 1960s. The exposed patients manifested neurological signs, and some patients exposed in utero were born with so-called congenital Minamata disease. In a previous report, Nishigaki and Harada evaluated the methylmercury concentrations in the umbilical cords of inhabitants and demonstrated that methylmercury actually passed through the placenta (Nishigaki and Harada, 1975). However, the report involved a limited number of cases (only 35) and did not quantitatively evaluate the regional differences in the transition of methylmercury exposure. Therefore, in the present study, we evaluated the temporal and spatial distributions of methylmercury concentrations in umbilical cords, with an increased number of participants and additional descriptive analyses. Then, we examined whether the methylmercury concentrations corresponded with the history of the Minamata disease incident. A total of 278 umbilical cord specimens collected after birth were obtained from babies born between 1925 and 1980 in four study areas exposed to methylmercury. Then, we conducted descriptive analyses, and drew scatterplots of the methylmercury concentrations of all the participants and separated by the areas. In the Minamata area, where the first patient was identified in 1956, the methylmercury concentration reached a peak around 1955. Subsequently, about 5 years later, the concentrations peaked in other exposed areas with the expected exposure distribution corresponding with acetaldehyde production (the origin of methylmercury). This historical incident several decades ago in Minamata and neighboring communities clearly shows that regional pollution affected the environment in utero. Furthermore, the temporal and spatial distributions of the methylmercury concentrations in the umbilical cords tell us the history of the Minamata disease incident.

KW - Environmental pollution

KW - Methylmercury poisoning

KW - Minamata disease

KW - Umbilical cord

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=71749117501&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=71749117501&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.10.011

DO - 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.10.011

M3 - Article

C2 - 19878970

AN - SCOPUS:71749117501

VL - 408

SP - 272

EP - 276

JO - Science of the Total Environment

JF - Science of the Total Environment

SN - 0048-9697

IS - 2

ER -