Kamioka mines in Japan have been mined since 710 AD, and have yielded gold, lead, silver and copper. After 1200 years of mining at Kamioka, miners there mined something, which made the place infamous and the word 'Itai-Itai!' a slang for suffering in Japan. During the Russo-Japanese war (1904-05) and the I World War, Japan was hungry for metals. A key metal available at Kamioka was Zinc, which was used in armour, airplanes and ammunition. Zinc in Kamioka was mixed with cadmium and to purify it miners roasted the ore and then percolated it with acid, removing the cadmium. The cadmium sludge was then dumped into the river or on the ground, where it percolated into the ground water. Then in 1912, doctors noticed that the local rice farmers were falling prey to new illnesses. Joint and bone pain, kidney failure and soft bones. One doctor broke a girl's wrist while checking her pulse. Then in 1930's and 1940's the disease exploded as the Japanese demand for Zinc increased. The disease crept from village to village around Kamioka mines. The disease came to be known as itai-itai or "ouch-ouch" disease, after the cries of pain from the victims. After the war in 1946, a local doctor, Noboru Hagino, began studying itai-itai. Hagino, produced an epidemiological map plotting occurrence of itai-itai, he overlaid this on a map of the local Jinzu river. When he looked at the overlay, the two maps looked nearly identical. After testing local crops, Hagino realised that the rice was a cadmium sponge. Conscientious work soon revealed what the cadmium did in the body. Zinc, is an essential mineral in the body, and just like in ground, cadmium interferes with zinc in the body and replaces it. It also replaces sulphur and calcium, in the bones. Once cadmium slips into the body, it cannot be flushed out and neither can cadmium do the biological duties of zinc or calcium. Hagino announced his results in 1961 and as usual, the mining company 'Mitsui Mining and Smelting' denied all wrongdoing. Mitsui also campaigned to discredit Hagino. Hagino though persisted with his relentlessly continuing research and a local medical committee, investigating Hagino's claims admitted that Cadmium might cause the disease. Then a national government committee, overwhelmed by Hagino's evidence, ruled that cadmium absolutely causes itai-itai. To kill Godzilla in the movie "The return of Godzilla," the Japanese military deployed cadmium tipped missiles. Considering that an H-bomb gave Godzilla life, cadmium being used to take it away, shows the dim view Japanese hold of Cadmium.
Today Cadmium is present in batteries, among other things. We dump our batteries which end up in land fills and rivers and then, the cadmium slowly leeches off. The question is, are we repeating the same thing what happened at Kamioka, all over again.