Mercury Poisoning

Mercury Poisoning

This article deals with ‘Mercury Poisoning  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’, which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here.


Mercury concentrates as highly toxic Methyl Mercury in the bodies of fish.

Mercury Poisoning

Minamata disease

  • The disease was searched in Japan’s seaside town of Minamata.
  • Strange behaviour was seen in cats, birds & also in humans. The investigation found that petrochemical companies had been discharging mercury waste into the sea.
  • Around 5,000 people were killed & 50,000 were poisoned to some extent by Mercury.
Minamata disease

Humans have controlled the Minamata disease and the use of Mercury to a large extent. But such cases are sporadically noticed in 

  • Mercury Mining, mainly in China
  • Central Asian nations like Kyrgyzstan 
  • In India 
    1. Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu): The thermometer factory was dumping waste (the factory was of Ponds and later acquired by Hindustan Unilever in 1987 ) 
    1. Singrauli Region in Uttar Pradesh 
    2. Ganjam in Odisha 

Applications of Mercury

Applications of Mercury

Side Topic: Diseases from Metal Poisoning

Mercury Minamata Disease
Cadmium Itai Itai
Nitrate Blue Baby Syndrome
Water with little or no fluoride Cavity in teeth
Arsenic Black Foot Disease (disfigures the skin, impacts kidney and, heart & lung fatalities.

Minamata Convention on Mercury

  • Minamata Convention aims to control the use of Mercury.
  • The convention was signed in Kumamoto (Japan) in 2013 and ratified by India in 2014.
  • Minamata Convention is part of the cluster of agreements, including 
    • Basel Convention to control transboundary movement of hazardous wastes
    • Rotterdam Convention to manage international trade of hazardous chemicals and pesticides
    • Stockholm Convention to restrict and eliminate persistent organic pollutants.

What does India have to do?

  • India will have to establish and enforce mercury emission standards for coal-fired power plants(and coal mining).  
  • The Chlor-alkali industry has to use mercury-free technologies.
  • Replace CFLs with LED.

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