Earlier this month, delegates from over 130 nations gathered in Kumamoto to launch the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The U.N.-brokered treaty aims to limit mercury use and emissions. It comes at a time when the U.N. Environmental Program warns half of all global anthropogenic mercury emissions come from Asia, with East and Southeast Asia accounting for about 40 percent of the total.

At the start of the conference, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe angered Minamata disease victims and environmental activists. In remarks that reminded some of his controversial assertion to the International Olympic Committee that the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis was under control, Abe said that, while Japan had given rise to Minamata disease, which was caused by mercury poisoning, it also recovered.

Japan does have strict mercury standards, but concerns about contamination remain.