ENSURING SAFE MERCURY USE is becoming an important environmental issue in Canada. Currently, the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) are preparing draft standards for mercury use. Their mission is twofold: identify all areas where mercury is used and replace it with alternatives or provide full life-cycle management for products so that the mercury they contain is recovered or reused and not allowed to escape into the environment.
Here are some common mercury applications which have already been reduced or are awaiting replacement:
- Paints and Pesticides currently manufactured in Canada no longer contain mercury. Old
paints and pesticides likely do contain mercury. Store them in a cool dry place away from
children and pets. Contact the Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Environment at 368-5047 for
- Sewage Sludge spread on farm fields as a soil amendment can contain mercury. Depending
on the geographic location, sewage sludge can have minor or major mercury content. If it
originates in areas where major industry exists, the mercury content can be substantial. On
PEI, our sewage sludge is digested according to section 22 of the Environmental Protection
Act and spread by local licensed contractors. Since we do not have heavy industry here,
mercury levels are negligible.
- Dyes and Pigments on Ceramics sometimes use mercury to make colour. In order to
produce dark red pigments, mercury has been combined with cadmium. North American
potters are aware of the hazards involved and it is now rarely used. Imported ceramics,
however, may still contain mercury in their glazes.
- Batteries recently manufactured in Canada do not contain mercury. This phase out has been
a voluntary effort on the part of battery manufacturers. Consumers should avoid disposing of
old batteries by incineration. Burning them will release mercury vapours.
- Anti-lock Braking Systems or ABS were originally designed for aircraft. The system allows
drivers to steer during hard braking because each wheel has a wheel speed sensor. These
sensors send electronic signals to a central control unit or computer. In the case of wheel
lock up during braking, the sensor will signal the control unit to limit hydraulic pressure to
the wheel, thereby making it easier for the driver to stablize handling. Mercury is a major
component of the electrical switches used in ABS, but the automotive industry plans a phase