According to the United States Department of Labour, lead was one of the first metals used by humans and consequently, the cause of the first recorded occupational disease. Lead is a naturally-occurring element that can be harmful to humans when ingested or inhaled. Due to some of lead’s advantageous physical properties, it has been known to be added to paint. This is because lead speeds up drying, increases durability, maintains a fresh appearance, and resists moisture that causes corrosion. It is one of the main health and environmental hazards associated with paint. Under Ontario legislation, lead is currently one of eleven designated substances considered hazardous.
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The naturally occurring metal is used in everything from construction materials to batteries. A dangerous source of lead is within the paint of homes built prior to 1978 and may easily become airborne through the removal, renovation or demolition of structures painted with lead pigments. Currently, the law requires that contractors performing any related jobs to the ones described above must follow specific work practices in order to prevent lead contamination. Determining the existence of lead is the first of these requirements.
Once lead containing materials are agitated, they become airborne and can be inhaled, allowing the lead to distribute throughout the body and bones.
Lead is toxic to everyone, but unborn babies and young children are at greatest risk for health problems from lead poisoning; their smaller, growing bodies make them more susceptible to absorbing and retaining lead. According to Health Canada, there is NO safe levels of lead. That includes any inhalation or ingestion via water or dust.
Symptoms of lead exposure include:
– Poor muscle coordination
– Nervous system damage
– Increased blood pressure
– Hearing and vision impairment
– Reproductive problems
– Delayed fetal development in pregnant women
– Damage to the brain and nervous system
– Behavioural problems
– Liver and kidney damage
– Hearing loss
– Developmental delays