• Kyodo

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Nine Minamata disease victims filed a ¥228 million suit for damages Thursday against Kumamoto Prefecture and chemical maker Chisso Corp., claiming they were affected by mercury-poisoning as preborn babies or infants.

The identities of the plaintiffs, who have not been officially recognized as Minamata disease victims, were not disclosed.

The lawsuit is the third case questioning administrative responsibility for the spread of Minamata disease, Japan’s worst pollution-related illness, since the Supreme Court ruled in October 2004 that the government was responsible for the spread of the disease in the 1950s and ’60s.

The focus of the suit will be on the actual conditions and symptoms of fetal and infantile Minamata disease sufferers.

“The patients have suffered with Minamata disease all the time since they were born, and the disease has greatly affected their lives,” said Toshihiro Higashi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “There are people who do not want to go public (about the disease) and we would like to speak for them, too.”

The nine plaintiffs from Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures, aged between 47 and 59, were born around 1956, when the disease was officially confirmed, and all have symptoms such as numbness and impaired balance.

All of them have applied for official recognition as Minamata disease patients.

According to the Environment Ministry, more than 5,600 people have applied for recognition since the 2004 Supreme Court ruling, and half of them are under 60 years old.

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