Mercury: Canada-wide standards


Canada-wide Standards (CWS) are developed in order to achieve nationally unified environmental objectives while allowing participating jurisdictions to implement complementary plans in a way that suits their individual circumstances. The CWS are developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), which consists of federal, provincial (except Québec), and territorial environment ministers, through the framework of the Harmonization Accord. The standards are based on science, but also take into consideration technical feasibility and socio-economic factors. Generally, the standards consist of a numeric limit and a timeline that sets a deadline for the achievement of the limit. Implementation plans, progress monitoring, and public reporting are also important aspects of the CWS process.

The products and emissions managed using CWS have been determined by the CCME to be some of the priority sources of mercury in Canada. Currently, CWS for mercury exist for mercury-containing lamps, dental amalgam waste, and emissions from base metal smelting and incinerators. The CCME has also committed to develop a CWS for the coal fired electric power generation sector by the year 2005.

Reporting on Progress

In June 2005, the CCME published the "Canada-wide Standards for Mercury: A Report on Progress" which provides a status update on the implementation of the Canada-wide Standards for Mercury : Mercury Emissions, Mercury Containing Lamps and Mercury for Dental Amalgam Waste.

In October 2007, the CCME published the "Canada-wide Standards for Mercury: A Report on Compliance and Evaluation for Mercury from Dental Amalgam Waste and A Report On Progress for Mercury Emissions and Mercury-Containing Lamps". This report presents the overall compliance and evaluation of the Canada-wide Standard on Mercury for Dental Amalgam. This repost also presents updates on the status of the implementation of two other Canada-wide standards for Mercury:

  • Mercury Emissions; and
  • Mercury Containing Lamps.

Canada-wide Standards in Respect of Mercury

Mercury-containing Lamps

The CWS for Mercury-containing Lamps takes a pollution prevention approach by calling for a reduction in the average mercury content of lamps sold in Canada. From a 1990 baseline, the numeric target is a 70% reduction by 2005 and a total reduction of 80% by 2010. This CWS also includes a commitment for jurisdictions to assess the feasibility of recycling/recovery of lamps and to implement initiatives to encourage these types of activities, when appropriate. The implementation plans of each jurisdiction can be found on the CCME Web site.

Dental Amalgam Waste

The goal of the CWS for Dental Amalgam Waste is to reduce national mercury releases from dental amalgam waste by 95% by 2005 from a 2000 baseline. This CWS promotes the use of best management practices, such as the installation of ISO certified amalgam traps, in order to achieve the target. It has led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by Environment Canada and the Canadian Dental Association (PDF; 945 KB), which focuses on reducing mercury releases from dental facilities. See the CCME Web site for the implementation plans for each jurisdiction.


The CWS for Mercury Emissions applies to two sectors: base metal smelting and waste incineration. Find below a description of the targets for these sectors and a table with links to implementation plans for each jurisdiction.

Base Metal Smelting

For base metal smelting facilities, a two-part standard has been put forth to deal with both existing and new/expanding operations. New and expanding facilities should be equipped to meet a guideline of 0.2 g mercury per tonne of finished zinc, nickel, or lead or 1 g mercury per tonne of finished copper. Existing facilities are to make a determined effort to reach a guideline of 2 g Hg per tonne of finished metal by 2008.

Waste Incineration

Under the CWS, limits for the concentration of mercury in exhaust gas have been established for various types of waste incinerators. The table below presents the numeric target as well as timeline for each type of incinerator. It should be noted that for municipal incinerators and existing medical incinerators the CWS has different requirements for large (processing greater than 120 tonnes of waste per year) and small (processing 120 tonnes of waste per year or less) facilities. Larger facilities must conduct annual stack tests to confirm that the target concentration is achieved. Smaller facilities must make determined efforts, such as an ongoing review of waste diversion options and/or emission control upgrades, to reduce mercury emissions. A one-time stack test or an audit of a waste diversion program may be conducted to establish that the target is being met.

Table of Canada-wide Standard Targets for Incinerators
Incinerator Type
Target (µg/Rm 3)
medical *
sewer sludge

* Existing medical incinerators handling less than 120 tonnes of waste per year have a target of 40 µg/Rm3.

Implementation Plans

Jurisdictions have planned to implement the CWS for mercury emissions in a variety of ways. Some have released separate implementation plans for new and existing facilities. Some of the plans for mercury from incinerators have been combined with efforts to achieve the CWS for dioxins and furans. Please visit the CCME Web site to view the implementation plans of each jurisdiction.

Coal Fired Electric Power

In October 2006, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) endorsed the "Canada-wide standards(CWS) for Mercury Emissions from Coal-Fired Electric Power Generation Plants" which will significantly reduce mercury emissions from the coal-fired electric power generation (EPG) sector.

These CWSs consists of two sets of targets:

  • provincial caps on mercury emissions from existing coal-fired EPG plants, with the 2010 provincial caps representing a 60% national capture of mercury from coal burned, or 70% including recognition for early action; and
  • capture rates or emission limits for new plants, based on best available control technology, effective immediately.

A second phase of the CWSs may explore the capture of 80% or more of mercury from coal burned for 2018 and beyond.

For more information, read the communique from CCME's October 11th meeting.

To help generate nationally consistent and comparable data for the standard development process, a guidance document entitled The Canadian Uniform Data Collection Program (UDCP) was made available to the responsible jurisdictions. Updates and further information about the data collection initiative are available through the Canadian Electricity Association's Mercury Program website.

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