Mercury: awareness, education and action

Government agencies work hard to protect us from mercury exposure through various strategies and programs; however, we can all help to reduce the risks through awareness, education and action. Once we identify mercury sources, we can take pro-active measures to limit our exposure and our releases. This page outlines steps that you can take to protect yourself and the environment.

Step 1: Use Less Energy

Coal-fired electricity generation represents one of the largest sources of mercury emissions to the Canadian environment. By decreasing the amount of electricity we use, we can reduce mercury emissions from this sector. Hydro-electric dams also increase mercury levels in the water reservoirs that result from their construction. Less demand for energy means fewer dams built. Use energy efficient products and check with environmental organizations in your municipality or Natural Resources Canada to find out about improving the energy efficiency in your home.

Step 2: Reduce your use of mercury-containing products

Some commonly used consumer products contain mercury. Although the mercury content has been reduced for some products, such as fluorescent lights, consumers often have the choice to avoid purchasing mercury-containing products in favour of mercury-free alternatives. To find more information about mercury-containing products and what alternatives exist, visit the mercury-containing products page. Although incandescent bulbs are a mercury-free alternative for lighting, they are far less energy efficient than fluorescent lamps. Using fluorescent lamps, which contain small amounts of mercury, can reduce energy consumption and can decrease overall mercury emissions as long as they are recycled properly. For more information, read the recent article that appeared in Environment Canada's online magazine, EnviroZine.

For the mercury-containing products that are already in use, it is important to handle them safely to avoid potentially harmful spills. At the end of a product's useful life, it should be properly disposed of, in accordance with local regulations and policies.

Step 3: Educate Yourself!

To learn about the problems associated with mercury in the environment, please visit the About Mercury section of this site. Pass it on! Share what you have learned about mercury and what you can do to help with your family, neighbours and fellow employees.

Step 4: Get Involved!

You've learned about the harmful effects of mercury in the environment and worked to reduce your exposure and your releases - what else is left to do? There are many initiatives that you can become involved with to continue making a difference. One such opportunity exists for bird watchers interested in monitoring Common Loons. Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) is investigating the effects of mercury on loons in several regions across the country. In addition to their own data, they make use of information collected by volunteers through the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey (CLLS). The CLLS invites participants to submit observations from loon surveys conducted three times a year. To find out more or to get involved with the CLLS, please visit their web site.

If you know of any other opportunities for public involvement in trying to reduce mercury pollution, please let us know!

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