Mercury and its compounds

Performance measurement evaluation

Conducting performance measurement evaluations allows the Government to assess whether the risk management actions taken on substances found to be toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) were effective in meeting risk management objectives, or whether adjustments would help protect Canadians and their environment. The Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Risk Management Measures for Mercury was published on July 3, 2020.

Adding Substances to Schedule 1

Mercury and its compounds have been added to Schedule 1.


Mercury is a toxic substance under CEPA 1999. It is a metal which is released into the environment through natural events, such as forest fires and volcanic eruptions. Mercury is also released through human activities, such as coal burning and metal smelting, and can travel far from where it is released. Releases of mercury pose significant risks to the environment and human health, both in its elemental form and in more toxic forms such as methylmercury. In humans, mercury exposure may cause harmful effects on the neurological, immune, and reproductive systems. Primary sources of exposure to methylmercury include diet, especially fish. Methylmercury is a potent neurotoxin that is readily absorbed and distributed, affecting the central nervous system. In pregnant women, it can cross the placenta into the fetus, accumulating in the fetal brain and other tissues. It can also be passed to infants through breast milk. Methylmercury is particularly damaging to the development of infants and young children, who are especially vulnerable because of their developing nervous systems.

Over the past decades, the Canadian federal government has undertaken numerous actions to minimize or eliminate mercury exposure in order to protect the health of Canadians and their environment from the harmful effects of this substance. This has involved regulatory and other measures focusing on mining, metal smelting, steel manufacture, cement manufacture, electric power generation, mercury-containing lamps, dental amalgam, waste disposal, and numerous other sources of exposure, including various products used by consumers. In accordance with this, in order to determine the effectiveness of these measures, the government has conducted a performance measurement evaluation and summarized the progress in its mercury reduction efforts in the Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Risk Management Measures for Mercury published in 2020.

In addition to this, the government is strongly committed to continued action on mercury through both domestic and global efforts, to further reduce risks associated with this substance.

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