Municipal Affairs and Environment

Lead in Soil

Our ‘Lead in Soil Legacy'

In older cities such as St. John's it is not uncommon for soil lead levels to exceed the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Soil Quality Guideline (SQG) of 140 ppm for residential land use. Factors that contribute to soil lead concentrations include normal background levels and anthropogenic inputs from old practices such as coal burning, use of leaded gas (banned in 1990) and use of lead based paints (banned in 1976).

^ Top of Page

What do the CCME SQG mean?

The CCME SQG is first and foremost simply a guideline. Based on environmental and human health implications, it is the value at which there is “No Observable Effects Limit”. In the evaluation of the guideline the most sensitive receptor (small child) and the most extreme exposure is used. In other words, if a very small child were exposed to soil having a lead concentration of 140 ppm for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year there would be no effect on blood lead levels. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) consider soil lead levels up to 400 ppm as ‘requiring no action'. Soil lead levels between 400-1200 ppm are considered a ‘level of concern'.

^ Top of Page

What can I do if I have or suspect high lead in soil levels?

  1. The first thing is to ensure adequate soil sampling is conducted throughout your property to properly determine the extent (or lack thereof) of the contamination.
  2. If the analysis indicates that you have elevated lead soil levels you can have a Risk-Based Assessment conducted on your property by a recognized environmental consultant. At this point it may be determined that although the soil lead levels are elevated, based on exposure the values may be determined to be ‘safe'.
  3. If the Risk-Based Assessment determines that your property poses an unacceptable risk for lead exposure there are two options:
    • Remove the soil and replace it with new soil; or
    • Cover up the existing soil. This can be done in a number of ways including placing sods over exposed soil, installing concrete walkways around the house where lead levels tend to be the highest or installing raised sand boxes.
  4. If you feel that you or your children are at risk to lead exposure you can contact your physician. A simple blood test will be able to determine this. Acceptable blood lead levels are below 10 micrograms per decilitre.

^ Top of Page

Who can help me with my questions and concerns?

Environmental questions can be directed to:

Mr. Peter Haring
Manager, Environmental Science and Monitoring
NL Department of Environment and Climate Change
P.O. Box 8700
4th Floor, West Block
Confederation Building
St. John's, NL A1B 4J6
Tel: (709) 729-4147
Fax: (709) 729-6969

Health questions can be directed to:

Dr. David Allison
Medical Officer of Health
Eastern Health
Cordage Place
Tel: (709) 752-4192
Fax: (709) 752-4989

^ Top of Page

Last Updated:
This page and all contents are copyright, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, all rights reserved.