The Upper House is likely to enact a bill that will offer financial relief to more sufferers of Minamata disease. It is expected to cover about 20,000 of some 30,000 people, mainly in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures, who are seeking recognition as Minamata disease sufferers. But it has flaws.

Minamata disease is a neurological disorder caused by organic mercury that was released into the Sea of Shiranui a Chisso Corp. plant in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture. In 1956, the existence of Minamata disease was recognized, and in 1968 it was officially recognized as a disease caused by man-made pollution. In 1965, a second outbreak of Minamata disease was confirmed along the Agano River in Niigata Prefecture. This time it was caused by organic mercury released by a Showa Denko K.K. plant. In total, nearly 2,000 people have died from the disease, and babies have suffered birth defects.

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