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Minamata Convention on Mercury

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017


This year, 2016, marks the sixtieth anniversary of the discovery of “Minamata Disease,” so-named for the town ravaged by the effects of methylmercury poisoning, and the namesake of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. As of April 22, 2016—Earth Day—128 nations have signed and 25 have ratified the international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic releases and emission of mercury and mercury compounds.

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Copyright © American Society of International Law 2016

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* This text was reproduced and reformatted from the text available at the United Nations Environment Program website (visited May 13, 2016),

1 List of Signatories and Future Parties, United Nations Env’t Program [UNEP], Minamata Convention on Mercury, (last visited May 17, 2016). For additional information on the Minamata Convention, see Coulter, Margaret, The Minamata Convention on Mercury: Past, Present, and Future Environmental Health, 14 Sustainable Dev. L. and Pol’y 12 (2014)Google Scholar.

2 Minamata Disease Q&A 1. Outbreak and Cause, Japan Ministry Of Env’t, Minamata Disease Archives, (last visited May 17, 2016); Minamata Disease, Boston University Sustainability, Boston University, (last visited May 17, 2016).

3 Angie Littlefield, TED Case Studies: Minamata Disaster, American University (Jan. 11, 1997), See also Kessler, Rebecca, The Minamata Convention on Mercury: A First Step toward Protecting Future Generations, 121 Envtl. Health Perspectives 305 (2013), Google ScholarPubMed.

4 Yoko Tsurumi, Minamata’s Moyainaoshi Movement and Sustainable Development: Recovery from Division, Chuo Univ. (2006),

5 See id.

6 Kessler, supra note 3.

7 Normile, Dennis, Mercury Pollution: In Minamata, Mercury Still Divides, 341 Science 1446, 1447 (2013)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

8 See Krabbenhoft, David P. & Sunderland, Elsie M., Global Change and Mercury, 341 Science 1457, 1457 (2013)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

9 Normile, supra note 7, at 1446. See generally Nat’l Research Council, Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury 4-7 (2000), available at

10 Meyers, Gary J. et al., Methyl Mercury Exposure and Poisoning at Niigata, Japan, 7 SMDJ Seychelles Medical and Dental J. 132, 132 (Nov. 2004)Google Scholar.

11 Id.

12 Id.

13 Jane M. Hightower, Diagnosis: Mercury: Money, Politics, and Poison 140 (2008).

14 Id.

15 Id.

16 Hightower, supra note 13, at 140.

17 Id. at 152. Skerfvingi, Staffan B. & Copplestone, J. F., Poisoning Caused by the Consumption of Organomercury-dressed Seed in Iraq, 56 World Health Org. Bulletin 101, 103 (1976)Google Scholar.

18 Harada, Masazumi et al., Mercury Poisoning in First Nations Groups in Ontario, Canada: 35 Years of Minamata Disease in Canada, 3 J. Minamata Studies 3 (2011)Google Scholar; Andrew Chapeskie et al., Passing on Ojibway Lifeways in a Contemporary Environment, Paper Presented at the 7th Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property, Vancouver, B.C. (June 10-14, 1998), available at qj

19 Mercury Poisoning Effects Continue at Grassy Narrows, CBC News Canada (June 4, 2012, 8:47 AM),; Anna J. Willow, Strong Hearts, Native Lands: The Cultural and Political Landscape of Anishinaabe Anti-Clearcutting Activism 75 (2012).

20 Anne McDonald, Indigenous Peoples’ Vulnerabilities Exposed: Lessons Learnt from Canada’s Minamata Incident: An Environmental Historical Analysis of Environmental Policy Formulation and Implementation based on the Case Study of Methyl-mercury Pollution in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, Japanese Ass’n for Canadian Studies (2007), available at

21 CBC News Canada, supra note 19.

22 Danielle Knight, Foreign Mercury Waste Still Contaminating South Africa, Inter Press Service (Mar. 28, 2001),

23 Id. See also Tony Carnie, Decades of Toxic Waste not Cleared Up, Independent Online (Feb. 6, 2012, 11:01 AM),

24 Knight, supra note 22.

25 Peru: Mercury Poisoning “Epidemic” Sweeps Tribe, Survival Int’l (Mar. 10, 2016),

26 Linda Pressly, How Mercury Poisons Gold Miners and Enters the Food Chain, BBC Magazine (Sept. 18, 2013),

27 Id.

28 Id.

29 UNEP, Global Mercury Assessment 2013: Sources, Emissions, Releases and Environmental Transport, at i (2013), available at Releases/GlobalMercuryAssessment2013.pdf.

30 How People are Exposed to Mercury, U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency, (last visited May 18, 2016).

31 UNEP, Proceedings of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum at its Twenty-Fifth Session, at 19-21, UNEP Doc. UNEP/GC.25/17 (Feb. 26, 2009), available at

32 Minamata Convention on Mercury, Preamble, Oct. 10, 2013, UNEP Doc. (DTIE)/Hg/INC.5/7, available at

33 Lubick, Naomi & Malakoff, David, With Pact’s Completion, The Real Work Begins, 341 Science 1443, 1443 (2013)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

34 Id.

35 Minamata Convention on Mercury, supra note 32, art. 21 (outlining parties’ reporting requirements).

36 See Lubick & Malakoff, supra note 33, at 1445.

37 Id. at 1443, 1445.

38 See Krabbenhoft & Sunderland, supra note 8, at 1458.

39 Lubick & Malakoff, supra note 33, at 1445.

40 Id. See also Minamata Convention on Mercury, supra note 31, art. 13 (outlining the Convention’s mechanism for sharing financial resources).

41 Minamata Convention on Mercury, supra note 32, art. 31.

42 List of Signatories , supra note 1.