"There is no safe level of lead exposure," stresses Simon Fraser University professor Bruce Lanphear, MD, a world-leading expert on children's environmental health who served as a report advisor. "Exposure to lead at a young age can permanently alter the pre-frontal cortex of a child's brain."
The report cites studies documenting lead levels of just 1 to 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood causing IQ scores 6 points lower than children with lead-free blood. Average Canadian children have levels of 1 to 3 micrograms of lead per deciliter (μg/dL) of blood, meaning there is no safety margin for any additional exposures.
Long-term effects may include slow development, learning disabilities, hearing loss and reduced height. And there is a correlation between children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and presence of lead in their bodies, even at levels officially considered safe, he adds.
Children with moderate to high lead exposure may suffer neurological and behavioural changes, including a far greater likelihood of committing crimes as adults, according to recent US studies by Dr. Lanphear and others.
A 2009 US study by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., found that every dollar invested in controlling the hazard of lead paint returned between $17 and $221 in health benefits. These benefits included higher IQs, lifetime earnings and tax revenue, reduced spending on special education and reduced criminal activity. Total savings from the US investments were estimated at $181 to 269 billion.
Other major health concerns include asbestos, a known carcinogen for which, like lead, there is no safe exposure level. Asbestos was widely used in Canadian homes and buildings from the 1930s until the mid-1980s.
It is difficult to estimate how many buildings in Canada contain asbestos. However, it is known that asbestos-containing
|Contact: Terry Collins|
Canadian Environmental Law Association