Municipal Affairs and Environment

Mercury Program

The Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Climate Change is now participating in a mercury monitoring initiative as part of the North American Mercury Depositional Network opens new window with a site located on the west coast of Newfoundland in Cormack.

Furthermore, efforts are being made to reduce mercury emissions within and outside our region. Currently, Canada-wide Standards opens new window are being developed for mercury under the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Furthermore, the New England Governors / Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEGECP) opens new window have developed a Mercury Action Plan. As well, the Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC) has developed a North American Mercury Action Plan.

Mercury Fact Sheet

  • Mercury is a toxic bioaccumulative naturally occurring substance. Even in small concentrations it can result in neurological impairment. The impact is particularly significant to pregnant women and small children.
  • Mercury levels in soils, water and fish can vary depending on the geology of the rocks and soils as well as anthropogenic effects. Mercury is released from both natural and human activities and once in the air can circle the globe several times before falling into lakes, streams, forests and fields.
  • Recent data from lake sediment cores indicates that mercury levels have increased 2-3 times since pre-industrial times. Despite an 80% reduction in Canadian emissions and releases since the 1970's, levels in most fish and wildlife have not yet declined because of the cycling of global mercury and re-cycling of old emissions.
  • Present mercury levels may result in unsafe levels in fish and fish-eating wildlife, including marine mammals. Furthermore, fish in many areas cannot be eaten safely by sport fishers or sustenance fishers. Mercury levels in fish affect recreational fish consumption in 8 provinces, and deprive First Nations of a traditional way of life.
  • These impacts are felt across northern Canada, though most of the anthropogenic emissions are in the south. A substantial component of the threat is from mercury emitted in the United States and elsewhere, which is carried to Canada on local weather patterns.
  • Anthropogenic mercury comes from various emission sources such as base metal smelting, electric power generation, incineration and petroleum refining, as well as products such as fluorescent tubes, dental amalgam, electrical switches and thermometers.
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