“Yusho”, a Japanese word meaning “oil disease”, refers to the unprecedented mass food poisoning in western Japan caused by ingesting a commercial brand of rice oil that had been contaminated with “miracle” compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and related compounds. The Yusho poisoning incident occurred in 1968, poisoned thousands of innocent people, and turned into one of the most serious and miserable man-made disasters ever experienced by man.
This book describes all the aspects of the incident, including the remarkably quick and complete identification of the cause of the poisoning which was achieved by the devoted and united effort of a research team at Kyushu University. Also included are chapters on the biochemical, pharmacological and pathological effects of PCBs and related compounds, the clinical features of Yusho food poisoning, and the prognosis of the victims. The major toxic agents of the poisoning were later identified to be polychlorinated dibenzofurans, which are generated from PCBs. Since these compounds are toxic, carcinogenic, and highly persistent in the tissues of poisoned patients, great efforts have been made through extensive animal and clinical studies to discover methods of detoxicating the compounds or quickly excreting the compounds from the body of poisoned patients. Although a magic pill that can cure poisoned patients has not yet been found, several methods have been established to accelerate the fecal excretion of polychlorinated dibenzofurans still remaining in the bodies of patients. Besides these scientific findings, this book describes the administrative actions taken by the Japanese and local governments in the aftermath of the incident and the lawsuits filed by the victims. Thus, this book will be useful to not only scientists but also administrators and the general public who are deeply concerned about environmental problems. We sincerely appreciate any comments or suggestions that would help Yusho patients regain their health from readers of this book.

Masanori Kuratsune, MD
Professor Emeritus, Kyushu University


Correspondence to : Gaku Tsuji, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Research and Clinical Center for Yusho and Dioxin (REC2YD)