Description

Lead is naturally occurring heavy, soft, bluish-grey, odourless metal found in rock and soil. Trace amounts of lead can be found everywhere in our environment in:

  • Air
  • Soil
  • Dust
  • Drinking water from distribution systems;
  • Food
  • Various consumer products

Since the 1970s, public health initiatives have substantially reduced the risk of exposure to lead in Canada, in particular through legislation and regulations restricting lead concentrations in gasoline, house paints and solder used in food cans. This means that population health risks associated with overexposure to lead in the environment are rare in Québec.

Reduce the contamination of drinking water with lead

Lead in drinking water mainly comes from dissolved lead from pipes, especially supply pipes (service lines) between some homes and the municipal distribution system.

To find out how to test and reduce lead concentrations in drinking water, go to the Lead section on the Contaminants in Drinking Water page.

Food and lead

In Canada, lead concentrations in supermarket foods are generally very low. So you don’t need to change your eating habits. To find out more about lead in food, go to Health Canada’s Lead This hyperlink will open in a new window. page.

Game meat

Game meat is very good for your health. However, some game meat may be contaminated if the game was shot with a projectile made from lead.

  • Big game: do not eat big game meat (e.g., moose, whitetail deer) from within a 10 cm radius of the bullet hole.
  • Small game: if the animal was killed with lead shot, it is important to remove any lead shot fragments from the flesh before eating it and to remove any meat damaged by shot.

Reduce your exposure to lead-based paint

Lead-based paint presents a risk of lead exposure, since it produces contaminated dust that may be inhaled or ingested, especially if the paint has deteriorated (for example, if it is flaking or chipping). If your home was built before 1991 and some surfaces are covered in damaged lead-based paint, quickly take steps to remove it or cover it safely. The health risk from contaminated dust is low for adults, but is higher for young children.

Follow the recommendations on how to remove lead-based paint on Health Canada’s Lead-based paint This hyperlink will open in a new window. page

Avoid some consumer products that contain lead

Canada regulates the lead content of many consumer products. However, products from abroad may be sold on the Canadian market or be brought into Canada that do not comply with Canadian standards. When you shop in Canada and abroad, find out about the lead content and be cautious, especially when it comes to the following types of products:

  • Some children’s costume jewellery This hyperlink will open in a new window.;
  • Some art supplies: inks, dyes, pastels, lead-based varnishes, stained glass materials, lead glazes, etc.;
  • Some natural health products (for example, azarcon, Bali goli, etc.);
  • Some traditional products and cosmetics that are not made in Canada;
  • Lead batteries in some cars;
  • Leaded crystal glassware.

To find out more, go to the Consumer Products section on Health Canada’s Lead Information Package page This hyperlink will open in a new window..

To find out if a recall notice has been issued for a product, contact the product retailer or manufacturer or consult the lists of recalls and safety alerts This hyperlink will open in a new window..

If a product’s lead content is high, stop using it immediately and dispose of it during a hazardous waste collection event or take it to your ecocentre.

Precautions to take if you have young children at home

The best way to prevent children from being exposed to lead is to make sure your home is kept clean and that all sources of lead are removed. Follow these recommendations:

  • Clean floors regularly by wet mopping or vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter (high efficiency filter)
  • Take your shoes off at the entrance to your home.

Other sources

Precautions to take when using lead-based solders

The alloys used in soldering may contain lead, such as those used when making stained glass. When you use these alloys:

  • Wear a good quality mask
  • Keep work surfaces clean
  • Keep pregnant women and children away from the work area
  • Wash your hands after handling lead solder

Precautions to take when reloading ammunition for shooting or hunting

If you reload your ammunition yourself, you may be exposed to lead dust when you handle and clean dirty cartridges and when removing spent primer.

Recommendations to reduce lead exposure when reloading

  • Work in an area that is well ventilated
  • Avoid touching your mouth with your hands
  • Wash your hands before eating or drinking
  • Clean work surfaces thoroughly
  • Keep pregnant women and children away from areas where lead ammunition is handled and used

Precautions to take when melting lead for bullet casting

The fumes given off when lead is melted are harmful. Melting lead to make ammunition should never be done in the home or in an area that is used by children or pregnant women.

Recommendations to reduce lead exposure when melting lead for bullet casting

  • Use personal protective equipment: good quality mask to protect against fumes, gloves, work clothing
  • Work in an area that is well ventilated
  • Avoid touching your mouth with your hands as you work
  • Always wash your hands after working and before eating or drinking
  • Do not eat or drink in the work area
  • Ensure the work area is properly maintained on a regular basis by cleaning surfaces with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter (high efficiency filter) and wet mopping. Do not use a sweeping brush, for this will generate airborne lead dust
  • Change your clothes in the work area, if possible, or take your clothes off immediately when you get home. Keep the clothes in a hermetically sealed bag until the next laundry day
  • Take a shower before leaving the work area, if possible, or as soon as you get home;
  • Wash your clothes after each use, separately from other clothes
  • Do not allow children and pregnant women to go into the work area

Precautions to take if you go to a shooting range

Shooting generates airborne lead dust. The dust comes from the primer or from the friction of the bullet against the gun barrel. It can then be inhaled or ingested. See your doctor to get your blood lead levels checked if you went to an indoor shooting range more than once a week for four months or if you think you might have been exposed to lead.

Recommendations to reduce lead exposure at a firing range

  • As far as possible, use jacketed ammunition or, better still, lead-free ammunition, made from nylon or copper
  • Go to a firing range that has a proper ventilation system and where proper maintenance and cleaning are carried out on a regular basis
  • Do not go to a shooting range if you are pregnant

Hygiene measures at a firing range

  • Avoid touching your mouth with your hands during a shooting session
  • Wash your hands before eating or drinking
  • Eat, drink or smoke outside the firing range, in an area designated for this purpose
  • Change your clothes and take a shower before you leave the range, if possible. If not, take your clothes off immediately when you get home and keep the clothes in a hermetically sealed bag until the next laundry day
  • Wash your clothes after each use, separately from other clothes
  • Clean floors regularly by vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter (high efficiency filter) and wet mopping
  • Never clean up using a sweeping brush, for this will generate airborne lead dust