Japan knows full well how certain chemicals can do harm.

The country has a long history of industrial pollution, including that which led to the Minamata disease of the 1950s and ‘60s. In that dark chapter in the nation’s history, thousands of people in and around Kumamoto and Niigata prefectures suffered from severe neurological symptoms after eating fish and shellfish, not knowing that they were laced with methylmercury released into the ocean and rivers by the regions’ chemical plants.

Japan and the world are now facing up to a chemical threat that, while not posing the same immediate health risk as methylmercury, is nonetheless increasingly recognized as upping people’s long-term chances of developing health problems, including cancer.