Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

Understanding Our Environment is Key to Promoting Health and Preventing Disease

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Key Points

Lead

Key Points

• Lead is an element found in the earth’s crust. It is released into the environment by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, mining, and manufacturing.

• In children, lead exposure is associated with stunted growth, behavioural problems and diminished intellectual abilities; there is no safe level of lead exposure for children.

• In adults, lead exposure is associated with miscarriage, high blood pressure, and premature death.

• Lead exposure has declined in Canadians since the 1960s, but our blood lead levels are still 10 to 100 times higher than those of our pre-industrial ancestors

• Lead exposure from gasoline and paint, the two most important sources of lead, has declined in Canada, but Canadians are still at risk of exposure from:

  • • Contact with lead-based paint in older homes, especially during renovation.
  • • Drinking water from lead pipes or pipes soldered with lead.
  • • Eating food grown in lead-contaminated soil.
  • • Breathing air contaminated by industrial emissions containing lead.
  • • Using consumer products containing lead.