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Lead in Homes


What is lead?


Lead occurs naturally in the environment and has many industrial uses. Everyone is exposed to trace amounts of lead through air, soil, household dust, food, drinking water, and various consumer products.

The main source of lead exposure in homes is in drinking water from household plumbing that can introduce lead from lead pipes, lead solder, or fixtures with lead alloys. Lead levels in drinking water increase with acidic and soft water and with the length of time the water is left standing in a leaded plumbing system.

The amount of lead Canadians are exposed to has decreased since the 1970’s, due to the removal of lead in gasoline, paint and solder in food cans. Although lead water pipes were banned in 1975, lead solder was still allowed for piping until the 1980’s.

Is lead a health concern?

There is no level of lead exposure that is safe.
Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning include:

  • General weakness
  • Poor attention span
  • Irritability
  • Learning difficulty
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches

Short-term exposure to high levels of lead can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma, or even death. Severe cases of lead poisoning are rare in Canada; however, ongoing exposure to even very small amounts of lead can be harmful.


Who is at risk?

Anyone of any age is at risk for lead poisoning; however, it is more serious for infants, young children and pregnant women. Babies and children absorb lead more easily than adults and are more susceptible to its harmful effects.

 

 
​Age Group Effects of lead exposure​
​Infants and children ​Permanent and irreversible effects on brain development
Pregnant women​ ​Miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, baby deformities
Adults​ ​Kidney problems, neurological effects, increased blood pressure

Sources of lead

Lead occurs naturally in the environment and has many industrial uses. Everyone is exposed to trace amounts of lead through:

 

 
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