9/24/2017, Geneva, Switzerland
Minamata disease was initially recognized in the late 1950s, at Minamata Japan, and has the distinction of being among the first industrial toxin identified illnesses. Ms. Sakamoto has travelled from Japan to address the international community this week at the United Nations Environmental Program sponsored first conference of the parties signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The convention (treaty) has gone "into force" this past August 2017.
Ms. Sakamoto's message to the COP1 of the Minamata Convention is clear and concise , "Minamata Disease is not over." It may not be possible to cure Minamata disease but it is possible to change the circumstances which cause it and to ameliorate its suffering. Ms. Sakamoto is hosted at the conference by IPEN. Established in 1998, IPEN is registered as a public interest, non-profit organization that brings together leading environmental and public health groups around the world to develop and implement safe chemicals policies and practices that protect human health and the environment.
The COP1 Conference of the Minamata Convention. is occurring from September 24-29 in Geneva Switzerland. The United Nations Environmental Program sponsored meeting is engaged in the daunting but possible task of establishing the permanent structure which is responsible for the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The slogan of the convention is "MAKE MERCURY HISTORY," which clearly has multiple meanings and potential.
As it happens, Ms. Sakamoto's multilingual translator who has travelled with her over years is the same one who has translated for the Japanese Researchers and Physicians who have documented and followed those with Canadian Minamata Disease--Grassy Narrows First Nation for more than 40 years-- The turnkey of the novel Chasing Mercury, is based on the period in the 1970s when private citizens in Canada reached out to the Minamata disease afflicted people, activist and researchers with suspicions of Canadian Minamata disease. Canadian Minamata disease is significant as the first identified incidence outside of Japan.
Mr. Yoichi Tani, advisor for 40 years to a surviving community of Minamata Disease sufferers has said, “Minamata is still a contaminated site. There are many Minamata disease victims struggling to be recognized and compensated. The situation in Minamata is not resolved.” This reality is echoed in many environments including the English Wabagoon River System were Canadian Minamata disease still afflicts members of the First Nations and others in the area.
Photo: Anonymous Press Corps. Front Row: Ms. Shinobu Sakamoto (center,) Mr. Yoichi Tani ( left) , and colleagues are hosted by IPEN who stand behind them, Dr. September Williams author of Chasing Mercury in the background. For more information see http://www.ipen.org/news/ipen-press-release-minamata-disease-and-mercury-pollution-past-present-and-future.