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Backgrounder

Mercury in the Environment

Mercury from products can be released to the environment at any stage of a product’s lifecycle including manufacturing, use, recycling and disposal.

For example, mercury can be released when mercury-containing products are broken at home or in the workplace, or as they are being transported to and disposed of in landfills or incinerators.

In Canada, most mercury-containing products currently end up in landfills where a small amount of mercury can potentially be released as a trace component with landfill gas or through the liquid leachate that can flow from landfill sites.

In the environment, mercury can transform through biological activity into methylmercury, one of the most harmful forms of the substance.

Methylmercury is harmful to the environment because it builds up in living organisms such as fish and becomes more concentrated as it moves up the food chain.

Methylmercury is known to affect learning ability and neuro-development in children. It can cause damage to the brain and central nervous system.

For more information, please see Environment Canada’s website.

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