Mercury is a naturally occurring metal in soil, rocks, and water bodies. It can also be released into the environment as a result of human activities involving combustion processes such as coal-fired power generation, metal mining, and waste incineration. The most common source of human exposure to mercury is the consumption of certain types of fish.
Health Canada monitors the concentrations of various chemicals, including mercury, in foods in its ongoing Total Diet Study surveys. Human health risk assessments are undertaken as new data become available.
In 2007, Health Canada's scientists published a comprehensive review of potential risks and benefits of fish consumption in relation to the occurrence of mercury. This review was based on the most up to date information, conforming to current Canadian context. As a result, Health Canada's Food Directorate updated measures to protect Canadian consumers from potential risks associated with mercury in retail fish.
Health Canada updated its standards (maximum limits) for total mercury in commercial fish that are sold at the retail level. As well, Health Canada has issued consumption advice to Canadians. These new standards will be in force as of July 11, 2007.
Follow Health Canada's fish consumption advice in order to enjoy the health benefits of fish consumption while controlling exposure to mercury. Consult your provincial or territorial government for any sport fish advice if you consume fish caught from local water bodies.
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