Sunday, May 9, 2010

Japan Mercury Whitewash: Report on Taiji Dolphin Meat

By Hardy Jones

Sakae Hemmi of Elsa Nature Conservancy and a long-time associate of BlueVoice, reports from Taiji, Japan that the National Institute of Minamata Disease has found extremely high levels of mercury in people who eat dolphin meat in that village made infamous by the award winning film The Cove. But they claim to have found no evidence these high levels of mercury have done any harm to those people. Results were released in a press conference Sunday in Taiji.

Unfortunately the NIMD had not conducted tests necessary to determine the impact of high mercury levels on humans including neurological tests and IQ tests. In the absence of such tests their conclusions are meaningless.

From the report faxed to me by Ms. Hemmi this morning: 1137 hair samples were tested in summer of 2009. In 43 persons the levels of mercury were higher than 50 ppm. As a reference point 1 ppm is considered the top level acceptable by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The highest tests results were for TAiji citizens who eat meat such as pilot whale.

In 2008 a Japanese journalist, Hiroshi Hasegawa, received data developed by BlueVoice that documented high levels of mercury in four dolphin-eating Taiji citizens. He then conducted additional testing that found even higher numbers for mercury among the dolphin-eating population. The results were published in AERA, a major Japanese magazine. His article spurred the NIMD to propose testing citizens of Taiji for mercury.

In a second article this reporter wrote "Through possible intentional error or plain negligence, the examination itself was outside standard neurologically based testing standards that take the brain deteriorating effects of methyl mercury poisoning into account." Those tests include the two-point discrimination test and a test for ability to discriminate three-dimensional objects by touching them. They also neglected to do IQ tests.

The upshot is that Taiji will take no action to control the sale of dolphin and whale meat.

The only good news is that studies will continue under the auspices of another organization. Those studies will particularly focus on the circulatory systems of children in Taiji.

We are seeking comment from Dr. Jane Hightower, a widely recognized experts on the impact of mercury of people who accumulate excess quantities of this heavy metal on whether it is possible to have such high levels of mercury in a human body without it causing harm.

Bottom line is that the NIMD report is a whitewash. Perhaps the scientists who conducted the studies on the dolphin-eating citizens of Taiji learned their trade from those who conduct "scientific whaling.

1 comment:

robbie said...

I live in an ex-mercury mining town that is under EPA restrictions to limit all mercury compounds in creek sediments,(cinnabar, elemental mercury,mercury oxides, mercury salts, and methylmercury) to 0.02 ppm.
We have been searching for instances of mercury poisoning for four years.
Could you let me know what symptoms you had, and the level of methylmercury in ppm or ppb you had in your hair or blood sample?
Thank you for any help you can give me.
Roberta Lamons
21661 Almaden Rd, San Jose, CA 95120