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JAPAN-MINAMATA/VICTIMS
RTX3H7YG
September 20, 2017
Shinobu Sakamoto was just 15 when she left her home in the southern Japanese fishing village of Minamata...
Minamata, Japan
The Wider Image: Japan's mercury-poison victims fight to be heard
Shinobu Sakamoto was just 15 when she left her home in the southern Japanese fishing village of Minamata to go to Stockholm and tell the world of the horrors of mercury poisoning. Forty-five years on, she is travelling again, this time to Geneva, to attend from Sunday a gathering of signatories to the first global pact to rein in mercury pollution. Sakamoto is one of a shrinking group of survivors from a 1950s industrial disaster in which tens of thousands of people were poisoned after waste water from a chemical plant seeped into the Minamata bay. The waste contained a toxic organic compound, methylmercury, which can cause severe damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to a condition called Minamata disease. It gives its name to the U.N.-backed treaty that took effect last month. Symptoms worsen with age, leaving some victims grappling with the question of who will care for them after the death of siblings and parents, while others face legal disputes. "If I don't say something, no one will know about Minamata disease," said Sakamoto, who is one of the few born with the disease who is still able to talk. "There are still so many problems, and I want people to know." REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon SEARCH "MINAMATA VICTIMS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. Matching text: JAPAN-MINAMATA/VICTIMS
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