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Food and Nutrition

Mercury

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.

What is Health Canada Doing?

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.

Health Risk Assessment and updated Risk Management Decision

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.

What Can You Do?

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.

For more information:

Information update: Health Canada Completes Revised Assessment of Mercury in Fish

Information Update: Mercury in Canned Albacore Tuna

Fish Consumption Advice

Questions and Answers

Health Canada's Scientific Evaluations Published in 2007

Human Health Risk Assessment of Mercury in Fish and Health Benefits of Fish Consumption

Updating the Existing Risk Management Strategy of Mercury in Retail Fish

Fish and Seafood Survey

Related Information

Help on accessing alternative formats, such as Portable Document Format (PDF), Microsoft Word and PowerPoint (PPT) files, can be obtained in the alternate format help section.

Next link will take you to another Web site 2008 Baseline Study Summary on Mercury in Fish (PDF format - 82 K)

Mercury and Human Health - It's Your Health article

Next link will take you to another Web site Mercury and the Environment - fish consumption (Environment Canada) -includes links to national, continental, provincial, and territorial fish consumption advisories

Health Canada's Mercury Environmental and Workplace Health Information Page

Total Diet Study