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Mercury still a risk, Japanese MD says
Low levels don't mean disease absent, doctor says
Kate Harries - Ontario reporter
Reported in the Toronto Star
Monday, August 30, 2004
Grassy Narrows, Ont.
A Japanese expert in mercury contamination says it's dangerous for Canada to be complacent about decreasing mercury levels in a
contaminated northwestern Ontario watershed.
Low mercury levels in blood or hair do not necessarily indicate that the person is not suffering from mercury poisoning. Dr.
Masazumi Harada said in a report released here yesterday.
Harada heads a team of 10 researchers from Japan wo are here for a week to test residents of Grassy Narrows and nearby Whitedog
reserves, which were devastated by massive mercury pollution from a Dryden pulp mill in the years before 1970.
Harada said nine residents who had mercury levels within a safe limit and who showed almost no symptoms when he first tested them
in 1975, displayed "classical signs" of Minimata disease, or methylmercury poisoning, when he
retested two years ago.
The nine suffer from conditions that include partial paralysis, dementia, difficulty standing up and impaired
speech, although their hair mercury levels remain within the safety limit, the report states.
"Chronic Minimata disease can occur due to long-term mercury poisoning even though the level is not above the
recommended safe level" it concludes.
Canadian authorities have never made a definite diagnosis of Minimata disease in the communities.
Harada's report adds that there's a need for more in-depth study to determine whether fetal Minimata disease has occurred and an
epidemiological study that would include victims who have died.
The report, co-authored by Dr. Tadashi Fujimo, president of Minimata Kyoritsu Hospital, is based on a follow-up examination of
87 people in 2002.
It was rejected for publication by a professional journal of environmental research because it lacks comparative data from a control group,
says Harada, a neuropyschiatrist and professor of social welfare at Kumamoto Gakuen University.
The report comes as Health Canada and the Ontario Government are pointing to decreasing mercury levels in people and the environment as proof
that the effects of the contamination is on the wane.
Commenting on an interim report Harada issued on findings from his 2002 follow-up visit, Health Canada spokeswoman Catherine Saunders said it
"differential diagnosis with other possible causes of similar clinical pictures"
A number of contidions, including alcohol abuse, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, could result in symptoms attributed to
mercury poisoning, like blurred vision, impaired balance and speech difficulty, she said in a telephone interview Friday.
"Of course, it is very difficult to distinguish, but that is what Canadian researchers are supposed to do", Harada said in an interview
through an interpreter, noting that even though low-level mercury contamination has spread all over the world, there is insufficient understanding
of its effect on humans.
He said it's in the nature of environmental diseases that people with other conditions will be among those affected so they have complicated
symptoms from both Minimata disease and diabetes, for instance.
Saunders said the government is continuing to fund research around the mercury issue, including a recent McGill University study that found
declining levels of mercury in fish and concluded that whitefish in the area is now safe for locals to eat.
Grassy Narrows councillor Steve Fobster said Health Canada's lack of interest in addressing the First Nations' health concerns makes residents
all the more apprecaitive that the Japanese team came to help them.
"I'm glad they're coming up here, at least someone's helping us," said Rachel Scott, 30, who brought her 12-year-old son Sheldon, who has a
learning disability to be tested by the Japanese doctors. Another son has cerebral palsy. Scott said she fears developmental delays in two of her
three sons resulted frm mercury passed through her in pregnancy. "I've mentioned it to doctors and they don't answer to that."
The research group consists of four physicians, including one neurologist, two social welfare professors and three graduate students from Kumamoto
City, in southern Japan
Use the Osumex Mercury Test kit to check yourself for even the slightest mercury contamination! Do not
leave this to chance as it is indicated above that even the mildest contamination over a period of time can cause health problems. The Osumex Mercury HMT is
probably more accurate than any other test as it test the presence of Mercury ions to "0" parts per million (ppm), I.e., NO CONTAMINATION.
Sample of a Mercury HMT kit
Osumex HM-Chelat is most effective in eliminating heavy metals contamination in the body
The above information is provided for general
educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace competent
health care advice received from a knowledgeable healthcare professional.
You are urged to seek healthcare advice for the treatment of any
illness or disease.
Health Canada and the FDA (USA) have not evaluated these
statements. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent