Lead is a soft metal that is toxic to the brain and nervous system of a developing fetus and child. It is most often found in old paint, the pipes of old homes built before the mid-1950s, and some consumer products.
Health Impacts of Lead
- Lead exposure (even at low levels) can affect children’s brain and nervous system development, resulting in decreased intelligence and behavioural problems.
- Lead can cross the placenta and affect fetal brain and nervous system development in pregnant women exposed to lead.
- Lead has been linked to high blood pressure, and kidney and reproductive problems in adults.
- High-level lead exposure in children can result in severe illness (e.g., from eating paint chips or swallowing a piece of jewellery containing lead).
Lead in Paint
- If the lead-based paint is in good condition, it does not need to be removed. Paint over it or cover it with wallpaper.
- If the old paint is peeling, don’t sand, scrap or vacuum the paint chips because this creates lead dust. Remove loose paint chips with a wet cloth and dispose of them as hazardous waste. Have damaged areas fixed by a professional or report the problem to your property owner.
- Pregnant women and children should stay away from areas under renovation until work is finished and the area is clean.
- Keep play areas dust-free dust with a wet cloth frequently, and wash your dust mops separately from other laundry.
- Encourage children to wash their hands, especially before eating and at bedtime.
Toys and Arts & Crafts
- Older toys may contain lead especially if they do not indicate that they are lead-free. Some imported toys also may contain lead. Choose unpainted toys for infants and young children to avoid lead exposure (by putting the toys in their mouths).
- Do not let children suck on painted surfaces or costume jewelry, especially if the jewelry is dull grey, heavy and can make a mark when drawn on paper because it may contain lead.
- If you are pregnant, avoid hobbies that involve lead such as painting, glazing pottery, and stained-glass making. Keep young children away from areas in the home where these hobbies take place until all the surfaces are wet mopped.
- Check for product safety warnings, advisories and recalls on the Health Canada Consumer Product Safety Website.
Lead in Other Products
- Do not store or serve food or drinks in lead crystal containers or foreign-made pottery or ceramics because they may contain lead.
- Some imported folk remedies and ayurvedic medicines from India, Mexico, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East may contain lead. Avoid these remedies or check the Health Canada website for advisories if you are not sure whether a folk medicine contains lead.
- Use spices purchased from grocery stores in Canada. Packages should be clearly labelled with the brand and content.
- If a workplace uses materials that may contain lead, ask the Occupational Health and Safety Officer to find out about precautions for reducing exposure.