Friday, March 7, 2008

Cats Going Insane

In the mid-1950s in Minamata, “cats appeared to be going insane, and were falling into the sea. The people thought the cats were committing suicide.” The same happened in 1976, when an outbreak of pneumonia occurred among ex-service personnel attending a convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia.

In The Cockroach Catcher I wrote:

“… Take Legionnaire. It was first declared a form of ‘mass hysteria’. ‘Mass hysteria’ leading to deaths! One of the psychologists proclaiming such was carried out horizontally three days later with the same ‘hysteria’. Then a little germ was found.”

Have we learned not to jump on the psychological bandwagon? I fear not.

What happened in Minamata was in fact the start of the worst story of environmental pollution of the 20th Century and it did not happen in some backwater of a third world country – Minamata was in Japan.

The Japanese have had a long love affair with tuna and it is this love affair that caused such a major disaster. However the methyl mercury that was the main culprit was in all the seafood collected by the fishermen of Minamata Bay.

But tuna is long living and high up in the food chain, which means it accumulates the mercury gobbled up by those creatures further down the line. After the war Japan needed all the help industry could give to recover and it is well worth reading the full history of the disease development and the denial by the corporation concerned and by the government despite clear scientific evidence. In Japan, country came before people:

“……In spite of the fact that Dr. Tamiya of the Medical Department of Tokyo University - Japan's supposed authority on the subject, who was supported by the Chisso Chemical Company and other mercury-handling industries - was named convenor, the Japan Medical Association group was disbanded in 1962, also without reaching any conclusions. In this manner the issue was neutralized without the problems really being confronted.

Governmental funding for the Minamata disease research group at Kumamoto University was cut off, but the university continued its efforts to discover the causal mechanisms involved in the disease……

……The industry-related government departments evolved their own theories to counter that of the university research group, pressured the research group to hold back on publicity, and cut down on research funds……”

Now this may sound familiar:

“……Scholars receiving trust funds from industry sources would produce differing opinions that resulted in support for industry…

……Minamata disease came into being as a result of one chemical complex that was, at a certain point in time, positioned at the heart of a new and rapidly growing industry. Because of the company's pride in its own technological prowess, it was blinded to the dangers of the waste effluents that it allowed to enter the human environment. The industry and various governmental organizations understood pollution problems only in terms of economic viability, and these same sectors of society tried to evade and cover up these problems through an initially successful series of oppressive measures.”

Yet such problems are not just limited to Japan. Remember Camelford:

“……In July 1988, 20 tonnes of aluminium sulphate were accidentally dumped into the wrong tanks at the Lowermoor treatment works near the Cornish town of Camelford. As a result aluminium entered the water supply……

……A leading authority on the harmful effects of aluminium has criticised the latest conclusions of the independent team of scientists commissioned by the government to investigate the Camelford incident……

……Barbara Clayton, professor of metabolism at the University of Southampton and chairman of the committee, says the report takes into account evidence from 80 scientists, 130 other sources and the world literature on aluminium. She says the conclusions 'represent a consensus view'……”

This appeared in the Guardian in 2006:

“……The requirement to examine the DoH's handling of the incident was removed from the terms of reference. No independent expert on aluminium toxicology was included in the working group. An attempt was made to include Waring as medical adviser to the group, even though he was the author of the original letter stating that no lasting ill effects would result……”

Barbara Clayton became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1988.

What a pity Dr. Crippen was not blogging then!

Next time your pet goes a bit funny, do not take it to the pet psychoanalyst, check the pet food.

In the meantime, Pompano is a much safer fish than Tuna and other predatorial fish. Pregnant mothers and those planning on having children should avoid Tuna, Sword fish and even King Mackerel.

We may in fact be staring at the reason for the exponential rise in the numbers of diagnosed Autistic Spectrum Disorder and not know it. Tuna, long perceived as the low fat high protein good food that is in tins and in many “healthy” salads has a high mercury content by nature of the reasons I described above.. Sushi and Sashimi are gaining widespread international fame as lean and healthy. The truth though is that the mercury content is also high and mercury is a serious neuro-toxin. One mother knew though, she was having tuna every day and both her sons developed autism.

I will stick with Pompano for now.

Also: Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup ---Autism: What If!

Buy the book: The Cockroach Catcher

Nature Posts:

ECOLOGY: First Bees, Now Bats.
Paraguay: Technology Meets Ecology
Hong Kong: Humpback Whale
Tasmania: Whales & Dolphins-Mother & Baby

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