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Expert marks half-century of fight against disease

Jiji Press

Sadanobu Kagamimori, honorary chairman of the Toyama Prefectural Itai-itai Disease Museum.

Jiji Press TOYAMA (Jiji Press) — As Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of the government’s recognition of itai-itai disease as the country’s first pollution-related illness, a former doctor has renewed his pledge to inform the public of its horrors.

Sadanobu Kagamimori, 74-year-old honorary director of the Toyama Prefectural Itai-itai Disease Museum, who treated many itai-itai disease patients as a doctor, has told Jiji Press he is keen to pass on “live documents” to the younger generation, such as the voices of victims’ families.

A total of 200 people have been recognized as patients of itai-itai, or “it hurts, it hurts,” disease, which was caused by cadmium pollution of the Jinzugawa river in Toyama Prefecture. The toxic heavy metal was released from Kamioka Mine in neighboring Gifu Prefecture.

Of those patients, five are still alive.

After graduating from university, Kagamimori worked as a trainee doctor at a hospital in the town of Fuchu, now part of the city of Toyama, which was worst affected by the disease.

He examined more than 100 hospitalized itai-itai patients at the hospital, of whom more than 90 percent suffered kidney damage and osteomalacia, a bone-softening disorder.

The patients’ bodies were small, and they typically had dark skin and severe anemia.

Kagamimori recalls the time he was performing a cardiac massage on a critically ill patient, when he accidentally crushed the patient’s ribs as they had become so brittle.

Kagamimori became director of the Toyama Prefectural Itai-itai Disease Museum when it opened in 2012.

He has striven to inform the public of the detrimental effects of pollution through displays of documents and photographs at the museum, as well as having victims’ families talk about their experiences.

Kagamimori stressed that the fight against the disease is far from over.

“Even after 50 years, people in other parts of Asia are suffering from kidney damage due to pollution,” he noted. “In societies that become prosperous following industrialization, pollution occurs as a result of development.”

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