Children of the poisoned river

Updated: May 22

Half a century after mercury contamination near Grassy Narrows First Nation, the poisoning continues to have deadly consequences — especially for youth

Ninety per cent of the population in Grassy Narrows experiences symptoms of mercury poisoning, which include neurological problems ranging from numbness in fingers and toes to seizures and cognitive delays, according to a recent study by mercury specialists. Then there’s the psychological stress of seeing your friends and family stricken with these problems.


During the 1960s and early ‘70s, the chemical plant at the Reed Paper mill in Dryden, Ont., which is upstream of Grassy Narrows, dumped 9,000 kilograms of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River. The fish in the river were full of poison, and the people from Grassy Narrows, who relied on the fish as a staple in their diet, were full of it, too.



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