J. Phys. IV France
Volume 107, May 2003
Page(s) 1139 - 1144

J. Phys. IV France
107 (2003) 1139
DOI: 10.1051/jp4:20030502

Health and environmental impact of mercury: Past and present experience

A.T.F. Rivera1, N.P. Cortes-Maramba2 and H. Akagi3

1  Environmental and Occupational Health Office, National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Department of Health, San Lazaro Compound, Rizal Avenue, Sta. Cruz, Manila, Philippines
2  Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, UP-College of Medicine, 547 Pedro Gil St., Manila, Philippines
3  National Institute for Minamata Disease, 4058-18 Hama, Minamata City, Kumamoto 867-0008, Japan

Mercury exists in various forms including metallic mercury, inorganie and organic mercury compounds. Research studies show that contamination brought about by natural and man-made activities is clearly a growing problem today. In 1956, the first recognized poisoning outbreaks occurred. Minamata Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system caused by the consumption of fish and shellfish contaminated with methylmercury. Clinical manifestation differs from inorganic mercury poisoning in which the kidneys and the renal system are damaged. The toxidrome consists of sensory disorders in the distal portion of the four extremities, cerebral ataxia, bilateral concentric constriction of the visual field. central disorder of ocular movement, central hearing impairment and disequilibrium. Fetal type Minamata Disease bom of mothers being exposed to methylmercury during pregnancy resulted in conditions similar to those associated with "infantile cerebral palsy" were also documented. Measures to control environmental pollution were implemented such as the environmental restoration project, compensation and relief of victims as part of the health and environmental management undertaken by the government. At present, global research studies are focusing on long-term and low-dose inorganic and methyl mercury exposure; and developmental neurobehavioral toxicity including relevant environmental factors influencing mercury transformations, mass balances and partitioning in ecosystems.

© EDP Sciences 2003