Four Big Pollution Diseases of Japan

The Four Big Pollution Diseases of Japan (四大公害病, yondai kōgai-byō?) were a group of manmade diseases all caused by environmental pollution due to improper handling of industrial wastes by Japanese corporations. Although some cases of these diseases occurred as early as 1912, most occurred in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Name of disease Cause Source Year
Minamata disease Mercury poisoning Chisso chemical factory 1932 - 1968
Niigata Minamata disease Mercury poisoning Shōwa Electrical Works 1965
Yokkaichi Asthma Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide Air pollution in Yokkaichi 1961
Itai-itai disease Cadmium poisoning Mining in Toyama Prefecture 1912

Due to lawsuits, publicity, and other actions against the corporations responsible for the pollution, as well as the creation of the Environmental Agency in 1971, increased public awareness, and changes in the practices of the responsible companies, the incidence of these diseases declined after the 1970s.

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