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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 12:99-111 (2012)  -  DOI:

Role of experts and public participation in pollution control: the case of Itai-itai disease in Japan1

Masanori Kaji

Graduate School of Decision Science and Technology, Group of History of Science and Technology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, W9-79, 2-12-1 Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8552, Japan

ABSTRACT: Itai-itai disease was first noticed in the Junzu River basin region in Toyama prefecture in central Japan around the 1930s. However, it was not identified as a cadmium poisoning disease until the 1960s. A local physician, with cooperation from outside experts, confirmed that the disease was caused by pollution from the Kamioka mine (owned by the Mitsui Mining & Smelting Company Ltd) located in the upstream region of the river. In the mid-1960s, the victims of Itai-itai disease filed a suit against the company and won their case in 1972. The victims received compensation and signed a pollution control agreement with the company. The case of Itai-itai disease is a rare example of successful pollution control in Japan: the annual inspections of the ensuing 40 yr, based on the pollution control agreement, show a reduction of cadmium concentrations in the river to natural levels. By analyzing the roles of various experts involved, this case study has contributed substantially to an understanding of the nature of expertise and the significance of public participation in the resolution of environmental problems.

1The present publication is a revised and expanded version of papers in Japanese by Kaji (2005, 2009), published in English with permission of the copyright holder.

KEY WORDS: Itai-itai disease · Pollution control · Cadmium · Public participation · Victims · Mining pollution

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Cite this article as: Kaji M (2012) Role of experts and public participation in pollution control: the case of Itai-itai disease in Japan1. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 12:99-111.

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