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Zinc & Health

Zinc & Health

As one of the world’s largest producers of zinc, Teck is committed to helping solve the global health issue of zinc deficiency through therapeutic zinc, zinc supplementation, food fortification, crop nutrition, awareness and advocacy. To date, we have reached more than 160 million people worldwide.

Teck and UNICEF: Saving Children's Lives

In 2013, Teck and UNICEF partnered to save children’s lives in India. See how we are strengthening the healthcare system and scaling up the supply and the use of lifesaving zinc and ORS to treat diarrheal disease in some of the most underserved communities of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.

Numbers We Can't Ignore

5.6 Million 

The number of children under five years of age that die each year across the world.

1.2 Billion 

The number of people worldwide who are not getting enough zinc through their diet.

526 Thousand 

The number of children that die annually from diarrhea which is second only to pneumonia as the leading cause of preventable child deaths.

200 Thousand 

The number of childhood deaths that could be prevented with increased access to zinc.

Zinc is...

Zinc is...
an essential micronutrient that is crucial for healthy growth and brain development. Zinc strengthens the immune system and helps fight dangerous infection. Zinc is a life-saving treatment for diarrhea, which kills more than 500,000 children each year.

About Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency is the result of a diet that is too low in zinc. Zinc is an essential micronutrient that is crucial for growth and brain development and helps fight dangerous infections, especially in children. Foods that are rich in zinc include meat, poultry, seafood and nuts. However, many people in developing countries have plant-based diets that do not provide enough zinc for healthy development. Zinc deficiency affects 1.2 billion people worldwide and contributes to the death of nearly 200,000 children under the age of five each year.

Zinc deficiency can lead to a weakened immune system that is unable to fight infection. Children with zinc deficiency are particularly susceptible to diarrhea, which is often deadly in the developing world. In 2015, nearly 500,000 children died from diarrhea – a preventable illness. That’s more children who die from diarrhea-related illnesses associated with zinc deficiency than from malaria, HIV/AIDS and measles combined.

There are a number of high impact, cost-effective solutions to zinc deficiency. For example, it costs less than $0.50 for a treatment of zinc tablets and oral rehydration salts to treat acute diarrhea and save a child’s life. Longer term solutions include getting zinc into the diet through food fortification and crop nutrition.

The challenge isn’t producing more zinc; it is getting zinc to those who need it most. That requires educating health workers, mothers and caregivers, as well as advocating with local government about the importance of zinc for human health. Scroll down to learn more about how Teck’s Zinc & Health program is helping to reduce zinc deficiency and improve lives around the world.

The 25th Team

The 25th Team
Teck is proud to partner with UNICEF Canada and the Government of Canada to support the recruitment and development of The 25th Team. In the summer of 2015, 24 nations came to Canada to compete in the largest, most important sporting event for women in history – the Women’s World Cup. We believed we could turn this event into a focused movement for maternal and child health. The 25th Team is a network of 60 Canadian women who have mobilized $12 million to save the lives of women and children in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Namibia and Peru. This small group of Canadian women is helping UNICEF reach more than 3.8 million women and children by 2020.
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Five Pillars of Our Zinc & Health Program

Therapeutic Zinc

The Challenge:
Each day, diarrhea kills more than 1,400 children under the age of five. 90% of these child deaths happen in developing countries in Asia and Africa, where clean drinking water, sanitation and access to urgent medical care is limited.

The Solution
Therapeutic zinc is a simple and inexpensive treatment for diarrhea. Combined with oral rehydration salts (ORS), zinc can reduce the duration and severity of diarrheal episodes and may also prevent future episodes for up to three months.

Getting the treatment to the people who need it the most requires supportive government policy, sufficient supplies of zinc and educating health care providers and mothers about the benefits of zinc and ORS.

Teck's Involvement
Teck is a founding member of the Zinc Alliance for Child Health (ZACH), a public-private-civil society alliance created to develop and sustain zinc treatment programs that will help save children’s lives.

The first partnership under ZACH is a CAD$20 million commitment by Teck, the Nutrition International and the Government of Canada, aimed at scaling up therapeutic zinc and ORS as a diarrhea treatment in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Senegal.

In April 2013, Teck announced a $5 million 5-year partnership with UNICEF Canada under ZACH to improve the use of and access to therapeutic zinc and ORS to treat childhood diarrhea in India. The partnership aims to save the lives of more than 100,000 children by helping get zinc to those who need it most, and 50,000 lives annually going forward by strengthening health care systems in India.

To date, more than 56 million children have received life-saving zinc treatments as a result of ZACH, and 60,500 community health workers have been trained to strengthen health care systems in these countries.


Zinc Supplementation

The Challenge
Micronutrient deficiency is a lack of essential vitamins and minerals such as zinc required in small amounts by the body for healthy growth and development. Today, one in four of the world’s children are malnourished, which increases the risk of stunted growth and impaired development that has devastating long-term effects.

The Solution
Micronutrient powders are single-dose packets of zinc and other vitamins and minerals in powder form that can be sprinkled onto any ready-to-eat semi-solid food. The powder is used to increase the micronutrient content in a child’s diet without changing their usual dietary habits to ensure they receive enough vital nutrients for healthy development.

Teck's Involvement
Teck led the creation of Zinc Saves Kids in 2009, an initiative of the International Zinc Association (IZA), to improve the survival, growth and development of undernourished children with micronutrient deficiencies by funding UNICEF’s zinc supplementation programs in Nepal and Peru.

Prior to the launch of Zinc Saves Kids, malnutrition was a major public health issue in both Nepal and Peru. Today, UNICEF is reporting substantial progress in both countries in improving child health.

Since the program was formed in 2009, 600,000 children in Nepal and Peru under the age of three have received micronutrient powder containing zinc to improve nutrition and reduce the risk of stunted growth. More than 85,000 mothers and caregivers have been trained about the benefits of zinc through 4,200 mothers’ groups. And finally, following advocacy by UNICEF, US$8.5 million was committed by the Government of Peru in 2013 for the purchase of micronutrient powder to treat an additional 720,000 children nationwide.

Crop Nutrition

The Challenge
Zinc deficiency affects more than half of the world’s agricultural soils. It has a significant impact on crop productivity and may contribute to zinc deficiency among humans. The link between zinc-deficient soils and zinc deficiency in humans is especially prevalent in developing countries that rely on cereal grains as the main source of dietary intake.

The Solution
Adding zinc to fertilizers has been demonstrated to increase crop yield, food security and nutritional quality by ensuring that crops have an adequate supply of zinc. When this is achieved, overall health and socio-economic conditions in many developing countries can be improved drastically.

Teck's Involvement
Since 2012, Teck has partnered with the International Zinc Association and the National Agricultural Technology Extension Service Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture of China (NATESC) to expand the use of zinc fertilizers. The main objective of the project is to educate farmers about the benefits of zinc fertilizer and to encourage fertilizer producers to develop zinc fertilizer products to meet the growing demands of China’s agricultural production.

To date, the project has carried out more than 120 field trials in China as well as promotional and education programs, including national workshops and training courses for farmers. Crop trial research has found that zinc fertilizer increases crop yield up to 20 per cent and the nutritional content of the grains by up to 40 per cent.

In January 2019, Teck announced a partnership with the World Food Programme to improve the health and economic opportunities of small-scale farmers in China’s Gansu Province. The program seeks to reduce zinc deficiency and improve the quality of farmers’ potato crops by providing zinc-enriched fertilizer, training and support in innovative agricultural practices.

For the pilot program, WFP will work with the Chinese government to reach 10,000 farmers over a three-year period to improve their crops and economic opportunities as well as the nutrition of about 30,000 people expected to purchase potatoes in local markets. Gansu Province was chosen for the project because nearly 80 percent of its arable land is deficient in zinc.

Awareness and Advocacy

The Challenge
More than 200,000 children are at risk of dying each year due to zinc deficiency, and a further 1.2 billion people around the world suffer from zinc deficiency-related disorders, such as diarrhea, stunted growth and neurological deficits. Unfortunately, the condition and solutions remain relatively unknown to the general public.

The Solution
Teck supports a number of organizations who focus on government advocacy and raising awareness about child health interventions, including the UN’s Diarrhea and Pneumonia Working Group, the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and the UN Foundation’s Every Woman, Every Child movement.

Teck's Involvement
Teck has held three innovative awareness campaigns since 2011, including:

Zinc Saves Lives Battery Recycling Campaign
This campaign encourages students to recycle used batteries at Call2Recycle location across Canada to divert electronic waste from landfills and help save a child’s life. Every AA battery contains the equivalent amount of zinc that can save the lives of six children. For every battery recycled until August 2016, Teck donated the value of zinc recycled to UNICEF in support of our Zinc & Health partnership in India. To date, more than 2.2 million batteries have been recycled as a result of the campaign. 

Send One, Save One E-Postcard Campaign
Our Send One, Save One e-postcard campaign gave participants the opportunity to help save a child’s life while raising awareness about zinc deficiency. For every e-postcard sent, Teck donated $0.50 to UNICEF – the cost of a life-saving zinc treatment. By the end of the campaign, 3,240 e-postcards had been sent to recipients in 102 countries around the world.

One Tweet, One Life Twitter Campaign
Our One Tweet, One Life Twitter campaign harnessed the power of social media to raise awareness about zinc deficiency around the world. For each retweet of our message on Twitter, Teck donated $0.50 to Zinc Saves Kids. The campaign reached more than 5 million Twitter users and received 22,640 retweets. Its hashtag, #1tweet1life, was a trending topic in Canada, which means it was among the most popular topics on Twitter on the day of the event.

Food Fortification

The Challenge
The World Health Organization has recognized that there are more than 1.2 billion people worldwide who suffer from a variety of micronutrient deficiencies including zinc deficiency. Micronutrients such as zinc are only needed in small amounts, but are critical, especially in the first five years of life, to a child’s healthy development.
The Solution
Fortifying staple foods, such as flour, rice or milk, with zinc is a highly cost-effective measure for reducing widespread micronutrient deficits.
Teck's Involvement
In 2012, Teck partnered with the chemical company BASF to jointly develop affordable zinc fortification solutions, with the goal of reducing zinc deficiency in developing countries. Zinc from Teck’s operation in British Columbia was turned into high-grade zinc oxide by GH Chemicals in Montreal, which BASF uses to make food fortification supplements for flour and rice products. To date, the Teck and BASF partnership has provided some 100 million people with access to zinc-fortified staple foods to improve nutrition.
Teck also supports a World Food Programme rice fortification pilot project in Odisha India, where 65% of children suffer from zinc deficiency. For the duration of the project, more than 129,000 children currently receive a fortified mid-deal meal every day at school. The WFP project aims to improve the nutrition and performance of school-age children while also building capacity of local rice millers to increase the availability of fortified rice.

Get Involved

  • Organize a dinner party or barbeque featuring zinc-rich foods. Discuss the importance of zinc in children’s diets. Create a video and share it
  • Encourage your children to join you at the grocery store and try purchasing and cooking with items rich in zinc
  • Give a presentation at your child’s school. Talk about the benefits of zinc for children in developing countries. Bring in a PowerPoint presentation, coloring pages and a word search puzzle
  • Host a Lunch & Learn at your office about Zinc & Health. It is a great way to spread the word and engage in dialogue about the importance of zinc in the diets of children around the world
  • Share information with your family and let them know you are interested. Ask your teacher if you can talk to your class or assembly about zinc deficiency
  • Ask your school to support a Zinc & Health day. Students could have permission to wear a special colour in support of Zinc & Health
  • Bring some activities to your school. Check out our colouring pages and crosswords and send these to your friends, or use them for a rainy day activity
  • For your next birthday party or sleepover, try cooking a healthy zinc-rich meal with your parents
  • Bored on the weekend? Talk to your parents about filming your own cooking show that features zinc-rich meals
  • Work with your parents to make a video about the importance of zinc in your diet


Zinc Saves Kids is an initiative of the International Zinc Association (IZA) to improve the survival, growth and development of undernourished children by funding UNICEF supported zinc programs around the world. Teck supports Zinc Saves Kids by fundraising and raising awareness of their mandate.

The Zinc Alliance for Child Health is a movement of Canadian organizations committed to accelerating the use of zinc and oral rehydration salts around the world to treat diarrhea, one of the leading killers of children. Partners include UNICEF, the Nutrition International and the Government of Canada.

Zinc deficiency is typically the result of inadequate dietary intake of zinc. Foods that are rich in zinc include meat, poultry, seafood and nuts. Zinc deficiency is particularly profound in the developing world where most populations have plant-based diets that are low in zinc. Zinc deficiency can lead to impaired growth and a weakened immune system that makes children more susceptible to infection and disease.

The challenge the world faces is not producing more zinc; it is getting zinc into the diets of people suffering from zinc deficiency. This requires government advocacy, better distribution networks and greater awareness of the importance of zinc for human health. The amount required across the globe, annually for zinc supplements amounts to less than 2 percent of our entire annual production and less than 0.1 percent of global production. Teck’s Zinc & Health program is aimed at raising awareness about this global health problem and working with international partners to help get zinc to those who need it most.

Teck is Canada’s largest diversified resource company, committed to responsible mining and mineral development. We produce materials essential to the quality of life of people around the world – zinc, copper, steelmaking coal and energy. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, Teck owns or has interest in mines in Canada, the United States, Chile and Peru. The pursuit of sustainability guides Teck’s approach to business, and we care about doing the right thing for communities, the environment and future generations.

The challenge the world faces is not producing more zinc; it is getting zinc into the diets of people suffering from zinc deficiency. This requires education, better distribution networks and greater awareness of the dangers of zinc deficiency. As one of the world’s largest producers of zinc, Teck recognizes the role it can play in finding solutions to the global issue of zinc deficiency and is committed to working with international agencies to deliver zinc treatments and supplements to children in need.

Teck’s Zinc & Health program is a global citizenship initiative that works with international partners to raise awareness about and contribute to short-term and long-term solutions to zinc deficiency. Our programs have reached more than 140 million people since 2011, and fall under the following categories: therapeutic zinc, zinc supplementation, food fortification, crop nutrition and awareness and advocacy.

UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. As part of the UN, UNICEF is active in more than 190 countries. UNICEF provides children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more. UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations. Teck has partnered with UNICEF since 2009 in Namibia, Nepal and Peru, and is currently engaged in a $5 million partnership with UNICEF to scale up access to life-saving zinc and oral rehydration salts in India. Learn more at www.unicef.ca


As one of Canada’s leading mining companies, Teck is committed to responsible mining and mineral development with major business units focused on copper, zinc, and steelmaking coal, as well as investments in energy assets.