THE SEVERAL hundred Ojibwa people in the community of Grassy Narrows in Ontario, Canada, became the victims of mercury poisoning from a nearby paper mill. Despite the known hazards of mercury, neither the provincial government nor the mill made any effort to protect the Native Americans until significant irreparable damage to the economy and the people had occurred.

The dangers of mercury have been suspected for centuries. Workers who used mercury, such as those who made hats, often appeared to go mad. This chemical element, found in nature, causes violent tremors, manic-depressive behavior, and temperamental instability. The manufacturing plants that served the pulp and paper industry were the biggest users of mercury prior to 1970. The chemical played an integral role in the electrolytic production ...

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