Date: July 22, 2018

Mainly cloudy with 40 percent chance of showers. Wind northeast 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light this evening. Low 17.

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Environment Canada
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Lead and Human Health

This page was reviewed or revised on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 1:54 PM

What is lead and where is it found?

Lead is a metal that occurs naturally in the earth's crust and is typically found at low concentration (average of 5-50 micrograms per kilogram). Traces of lead can be found everywhere in our environment and it can originate from natural and industrial sources.

What are the sources of lead exposure?

Humans are exposed to lead in both outdoor and indoor environments. It is found almost everywhere in the environment in small amounts - air, soil, dust, drinking water, food and various consumer products.

Over the past 25 years, Health Canada, Environment Canada, and other Canadian regulatory agencies have substantially reduced exposure to lead through legislation and enforcement of maximum lead concentrations in consumer products (paint, gasoline, etc.) and industry standards.

What are the routes of lead exposure for children and adults?

For the general population, the most common route of lead exposure is ingestion of food or water that contains lead. Absorption of lead through the skin is rare.

Children are at greater risk of ingesting lead due to their frequent hand-to-mouth activity and normal tendency to mouth or chew objects they come into contact with (especially non-food products such as paint chips, furniture or toys).

Is lead poisoning a common problem in Canada?

Very few cases of lead poisoning are documented in Canada each year.

Are there noticeable or visible signs/symptoms of lead poisoning to look for?

Some of the more prominent symptoms of lead poisoning include headaches, irritability, abdominal pain, vomiting, anaemia (general weakness, paleness), weight loss, poor attention span, noticeable learning difficulty, slowed speech development and hyperactivity. However, at very low exposure levels, lead may cause subtle adverse effects on children's development rather than specific symptoms.

How do I find out if I have been exposed to high lead levels? Is there a medical test to show whether I've been exposed to lead?

If you are concerned that you or your child may have been exposed to high lead levels, you should see your family doctor. Through a simple blood test, your family doctor can determine how much lead you have been exposed to. This is the most useful screening and diagnostic test for lead exposure.

My child has been playing in Centennial Park for years. Is my child at risk?

Playing in the areas of Centennial Park that were identified by Golder Associates Ltd. does not pose a significant risk to health unless a large quantity of soil has been ingested.

The most serious effects of lead occur with exposures in very young children, because the effects of lead on the development of the nervous system. However, most exposure to lead is through water and food and not from soil or other exposures.

Lead can be found everywhere in our environment. Most of the lead in soils comes from particles falling out of the air and from rocks that contain lead. Dust and soil can be a source of lead exposure for small children because they are close to the ground and because of their hand to mouth activity. Lead-contaminated dust and soil can also cling to skin, hair, shoes, clothing and vehicles and can be carried indoors.

If you are concerned about potential lead exposure, please see your local health care provider.

Additional information on environmental lead exposure can be found on the Health Canada website - http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/contaminants/lead-plomb/index-eng.php