Fish, a highly nutritious food that can also accumulate mercury, is a mainstay in First Nations’ traditional diet. In the 1970’s, the Medical Service Branch of Health Canada (MSB-HC) undertook a surveillance program to assess First Nation’s mercury exposure; blood or hair samples of 38, 571 persons from 514 First Nation communities were analyzed. The highest concentration (660?g/L) was in blood from Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek (ANA), also known as Grassy Narrows, whose rivers and lakes had been contaminated in the 1960’s by a choralkali plant that dumped 9 tons of mercury into the Wabigoon-English river. Because of the resulting high concentrations of mercury in fish and humans, MSB-HC collected and analyzed 4000 blood or hair samples and 184 cord bloods from ANA. Scientists from Japan with expertise in Mimamata Disease (MD), a neurologic disorder resulting from high levels of mercury exposure, examined ANA residents and identified over 30 cases of MD. However, there has never been an epidemiologic study on the long-term health effects of mercury in ANA despite growing knowledge on the deleterious effects of pre and post natal mercury exposure on children’s neurodevelopment, on adults’ motor and the visual functions and on the cardiovascular system. The ANA community, with support from the Ontario and Canada Ministries of Health, is currently carrying out a community health assessment (CHA) survey of all of its members. We have the unique opportunity to link the historical mercury data with the CHA results. We will (i) constitute the historic databank; (ii) examine the effects of pre-natal exposure (cord blood samples) on health and well-being in adulthood; (iii) examine the effects of past mercury exposure on aging and health of elders; This study is carried out in collaboration with ANA and with the support of Chief and Council. Our findings will help to improve health and social services and education in this and other First Nation communities.

Chercheur principal

Donna Mergler (UQAM)


Myriam Fillion; Laurie Chan (University of Ottawa)

Organisme subventionnaire

Instituts de recherche en santé du Canada (IRSC)


Project Grant: Fall 2016

Secteur de recherche

Santé et sécurité au travail


2017 - 2020

Montant accordé

367 200,00 $