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Lead & Mercury

Contaminant exposure through food, air, water, soil or parts of the community environment can impact public health.

BCCDC investigates contaminant exposure and consults with the BC Ministry of Health to develop effective policies and strategies to deal with contaminant issues that may arise.

Cosmetic use of pesticides

BCCDC studied pesticides in order to inform public health response to regulation of the use and sale of pesticides for aesthetic purposes. 

Lead exposure & illness

In 2014, BCCDC led an investigation into lead-related illness. The results indicated that while lead exposure is of health concern for some BC residents, manifest lead toxicity is rare. 

Lead in drinking water

BCCDC studied the extent to which exposure to lead in the drinking water of BC’s daycares and schools adversely impacts the health of children and assessed the need for and options available to reduce lead in the drinking water of daycares and schools.

Everyone is exposed to trace amounts of lead through air, soil, household dust, food, drinking water and various consumer products.  

Even small amounts of lead can be hazardous to human health. However, since the early 1970s, lead exposure in Canada has decreased substantially mainly because leaded gasoline and lead-based paint were gradually phased-out and the use of lead solder is no longer used in food cans. 

The use of lead in gasoline has virtually disappeared. Today, 99.8 percent of gasoline used in Canada is lead-free.

The SEED Study

BCCDC investigated sources of heavy metals and other environmental chemical exposures among women from India, China, Hong Kong or Taiwan, who had lived in Canada for five years or less.

BCCDC invited women to learn about their mercury and lead levels. The aim was to find out if body levels of heavy metals and other environmental chemicals are higher in these women and to find out, if they are higher, why are they higher? Women in the study with chemical levels of concern were guided on how to lower them.

Heavy metals can be found at low levels in some products you use in your everyday life as well as in foods you eat. They are found at low levels in everyone’s bodies and may build up over time. There are risks to babies’ growth and development when these chemical pass through the mother’s blood to her baby during pregnancy.

Where are heavy metals found?
  • lead: may be found in old paint, construction, lead-acid batteries, bullets, shots, fish weights
  • mercury: may be found in certain fish and shellfish species, cinnabar (vermillion pigment), some personal care and medicinal products, older dental amalgams 
  • cadmium: may be found in nickel-cadmium batteries, electroplating, industrial paints. It is used in construction and agricultural industries

The study was advertised with postcards in several languages: English | Simplified Chinese | Traditional Chinese | Punjabi | Hindi

Please note that the study has ended and no more participants are needed. For information, contact:

SOURCE: Lead & Mercury ( )
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