What you need to know about the Products Containing Mercury Regulations

July 2015

 

Note:

This document is provided for information purposes only. It does not cover all of the aspects of the Products Containing Mercury Regulations. In the case of discrepancy between this document and the Regulations, the official version of the Regulations prevails.

General

1. What is mercury?

Mercury is a naturally occurring chemical element. It is considered a global contaminant because it is toxic, does not break down in the environment and can build up in living organisms. Mercury is primarily released as a result of human activities such as mining, smelting, the burning of coal, and product use and disposal. Once in the atmosphere, mercury can remain airborne for long periods and be deposited around the world.

Mercury and its compounds are part of a global cycle and contribute to the environmental loadings of more harmful forms of mercury. For example, some micro-organisms and natural processes can change mercury or one of its compounds in the environment from one form to another. Methyl mercury, which is formed in the environment from the methylation of inorganic mercury, is of particular concern since it can build up (bioaccumulate and biomagnify) in many edible fish (freshwater and saltwater), and in marine mammals, to levels that are many times greater than those in the surrounding water.

In addition, mercury and its compounds tend to accumulate in polar regions, and concentrations measured in Canada’s arctic lakes have increased two- to three-fold over the past century.

Mercury and its compounds are toxic substances listed on Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999).


2. What are the Products Containing Mercury Regulations?

 

The objective of the Regulations is to protect human health and the environment by reducing releases of mercury from products used in Canada to the lowest level that is technically and economically feasible.

The Products Containing Mercury Regulations (the Regulations) were published on November 19, 2014, under the authority of the CEPA 1999. This domestic action builds on Canada’s international leadership and commitments to reduce mercury.

Once they come into force in November 2015, the Regulations will:

  • Prohibit the manufacture and import of most products that contain mercury or any of its compounds into Canada;

  • Exempt and set content limits on the maximum quantity of mercury in certain essential products listed in the Schedule of the Regulations;

  • Require manufacturers and importers of exempted or permitted mercury containing products to report to Environment Canada every three years; and

  • Require labelling of exempted or permitted mercury-containing products so that consumers are aware of the presence of mercury, safe handling procedures, measures to take in case of accidental breakage, and options for disposal and recycling.

Environment Canada administers and enforces the Regulations. Canadian actions regarding mercury in products will contribute to global efforts to reduce world-wide mercury pollution and its associated impacts. These actions will reduce the quantity of mercury accumulating in Canada’s environment, which will result in corresponding benefits for Canadians.


3. Where are the Regulations available?

The Products Containing Mercury Regulations and related guidance documents are available at Environment Canada’s CEPA Registry.

Further information can also be obtained by contacting Environment Canada at 819-938-4483/1-800-391-3426 or products.produits@ec.gc.ca.

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