High Mercury Content
The Grassy Narrows & Islington Bands Mercury Disability Board

Mercury Programs

The term, Mercury Program, is at times used incorrectly.

Some use it to describe the program run by the two First Nations through the Mercury Disability Board. In fact, the Mercury Program was set up in Ottawa in 1975 by the Medical Services Branch of Health Canada. It was designed to monitor levels of methylmercury exposure in targeted First Nations and Inuit communities. The process involves the collection of hair and blood samples from residents of these communities at regularly scheduled times. A person hired by this program coordinates the collection of samples.

The samples are analyzed and stored in Ottawa. It is to be noted that the results are not shared with the Mercury Disability Board. That is, hair and blood sample data, gathered in Wabeseemoong Independent Nations and Grassy Narrows First Nation by the Mercury Program, are not considered in Mercury Disability Board decisions regarding disability claims of residents of these two First Nations.

The Mercury Disability Board is specific only to the Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong Independent Nations.

At the date of publication of Ms Cosway’s report, this federal program has done 72,556 tests on 40,634 people in the 529 communities involved. The 1978 report shows that 2.54% of the population was at risk. The second group of results showed a large decrease to 0.4% at risk. The third report in 1999 shows a continuing decrease in contamination. It is not clear whether there are fewer contaminated fish, or whether people are eating fewer fish.