Canadian mercury inventories: the missing pieces

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Abstract

Research was conducted to determine the significance of the deliberate use of mercury in products in Canada and the associated releases from these sources. Through a combination of literature review and new calculations, the reservoir, flux, and releases of mercury from eight product sources were calculated, and these results compared to historical Canadian inventories. Mercury contributions from the waste sector were also assessed and compared to total Canadian mercury releases and to mercury releases from coal-fired generating stations. Results suggest the use and release of mercury associated with release of mercury associated with its use in products is 4.5 times what previous inventories indicate. Including dental amalgam and sewage sludge, the total releases of mercury to all environmental compartments in Canada totals 20 tonnes per year. This accounts for less than one-half of the 44 tonnes per year of mercury released from mercury waste disposal each year in Canada. Waste mercury contributions from hazardous waste imports, unknown product sources, and incomplete information on the use of mercury in known products may account for this discrepancy. Waste-related mercury releases and transfers for disposal and recycling are 11 times greater than that of electricity generation in Canada. Results indicate that Canadian inventories have underestimated the significance of mercury use and release associated with products, calling into question the current priorities for mercury management. This paper was developed as part of a panel session at the International Joint Commission “Mercury in the Ecosystem” workshop, February 26–27, 2003, Windsor, ON, Canada, as a complement to the information on Canadian Inventories presented by Luke Trip (Senes Consulting, Ottawa, ON, Canada).

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