• Kyodo

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A survivor of Minamata mercury poisoning disease will visit Switzerland next month to attend the first conference of signatory states to an international treaty to prevent mercury pollution, one of the organizers of her trip said Wednesday.

Shinobu Sakamoto, 61, who suffered mercury poisoning while still in her mother’s womb, will attend official and related events for the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury and speak about her life and issues faced by survivors.

Minamata disease, which paralyzes the central nervous system and causes birth defects, was caused by mercury-tainted water being dumped into the sea by a Chisso Corp. chemical plant in Minamata in Kumamoto Prefecture. The disease, affecting thousands, was formally acknowledged by the local health authority in 1956.

“Sakamoto is worried about taking overseas trips due to her health, but she wants to urge the world to abide by its commitments in the treaty,” the trip organizer said. She is scheduled to depart Minamata on Sept. 22.

The conference will be held in Geneva from Sept. 24 to 29, after the treaty comes into force on Aug. 16.

The convention, adopted at a 2013 U.N.-led conference in the city of Kumamoto, aims to curb the release of mercury into the environment and establish protocols for mercury storage and disposal.

Japan joined the treaty in February 2016.

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