Toxic substances list: lead

Lead is a highly toxic metallic element which occurs naturally in the earth's crust. Being very soft, pliable and highly resistant to corrosion, lead was used in plumbing, gasoline, paint and pewter manufacturing. It was also used to make many other products like lead-acid batteries and radiation shields.

Everyone is exposed to trace amounts of lead through air, soil, household dust, food, drinking water and some consumer products. Even small amounts of lead can be hazardous to human health. Lead exposure in Canada has decreased substantially since the early 1970s mainly because of the phase out of the use of lead in some consumer products. For example, lead is no longer used in food can solder, paint, plumbing, or gasoline (except for use in aircraft and race cars).

Fish and wildlife are also exposed to lead in the environment. Lead poisoning in these species can lead to blindness, muscle paralysis, reduced ability to reproduce, seizures and death. The use of lead in products such as fishing gear, ammunition, and wheel weights is thought to be the main exposure pathway for fish and wildlife. Industrial releases of lead to water and air are also a factor. Fish and birds may be exposed to lead when they mistake the small lead fishing sinkers and jigs for food. Larger scavenger birds are also exposed when they feed on wildlife remains left by hunters using lead ammunition. Lead wheel weights used for tire balancing can fall off while driving and are lost to the environment.

Lead was one of the first substances to be added to the List of Toxic Substances (Schedule 1) of the original Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Recognizing the value of a healthy environment, the Government of Canada has implemented regulations to address human exposure to lead and the main sources of lead in the environment.

CAS (Chemical Abstract Service) registry number: 7439-92-1

For more information on this substance, please visit the Chemical Substances website.

Risk assessment

Sources

  • Base metals smelting sector
  • Air travel
  • Industrial, commercial and consumer products
  • Pulp and paper industry
  • Iron and steel industry
  • Mining industry

For more information on the sources of lead in Canada, consult the National Pollutant Release Inventory and the Air Pollutant Emissions Inventory.

Risk management strategy

Strategies and actions recommended to manage risks associated with the substance:

Risk management evaluation

Evaluation of Canada’s efforts to manage risks to the environment and human health caused by lead:

Risk management tool(s)

Tool(s) to manage risks associated with the substance:

International engagement

Canada's international engagement:

Consultation

There are no consultations underway.

Other information

Contact

Substances Management Information Line
Chemicals Management Plan
Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3

Telephone: 1-800-567-1999 (in Canada) or 819-938-3232
Fax: 819-938-3231
E-mail: substances@ec.gc.ca

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