11 Symptoms of Lead Exposure

Lead is a common industrial and commercial material, but it’s also a hazardous substance, one capable of causing a wide range of health problems such as cognitive issues and others.

These health risks are particularly critical for children, which — when exposed to lead — would be at risk of developmental delay and learning difficulties alongside sickness and disease.

In fact, as of 1960, Canada banned the use of lead in interior paint and effectively removed its use from gasoline since 1990. However, many older buildings are likely to still have lead in the form of interior paint, lead dust and lead-based material for piping.

Below, we look at the sources of lead exposure and the symptoms of lead poisoning:

Sources of Lead Exposure

In older buildings, lead exposure can come from a wide range of sources, including:

Interior Paint

Buildings constructed prior to the 1960s may contain interior paint produced from the lead. Even where buildings have been renovated (resulting in lead contents being removed), it could still contain remnant lead materials in the form of dust and/or untouched surfaces.

Learn More about Lead Abatement:

Lead Water Pipes

It’s possible that your water pipes had been built of lead or could contain lead as a result of the soldering process. There’s a high risk of the lead contaminating your building’s water supply.

Misc Items

Some old buildings may still contain objects — e.g. canisters, boxes, tools, etc — produced from the lead. Likewise, even newer buildings could contain these products as a result of imports and/or purchases from industries that had not been affected by the lead ban.

Lead Exposure Warning Signs

If your tenants are experiencing or complaining of headaches, abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain and/or difficulty in maintaining concentration, your building might have unchecked lead.

However, certain actions could also increase the risk of lead exposure. For example, you might be in the process of renovating a part (or all) of your building. This will likely involve breaking or demolishing surfaces — e.g. walls, tiles, etc — containing lead.

Unless you professionally remove the lead, renovating those affected areas could increase the chances of — or even the extent — of lead exposure in your building. In fact, not only is removing lead an issue of safely preventing contamination but keeping those doing the job safely.

In Ontario, lead abatement is regulated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), which requires lead removal jobs of all sizes to follow specific legal requirements including, but not limited to, providing staff with personal protective equipment, decontamination sites as well as cleaning and disposal equipment.

Lead Contamination Prevents High-Value Occupancy

Professionally Remove Lead from Your Building

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Symptoms of Lead Poisoning


If you’re leasing office, commercial and/or retail space, then you must be mindful of the following potential symptoms of lead poisoning in adults.

  1. Headaches
  2. Abdominal pain
  3. Muscle and/or joint pain
  4. Difficulty in maintaining concentration or retaining memory


Commercial properties leasing space to schools, daycares or other facilities housing children — including infants and toddlers — must keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  1. Increased irritability
  2. Loss of appetite or willingness to eat
  3. Fatigue
  4. Vomiting
  5. Loss of hearing
  6. Constipation
  7. Seizures

Effects of Lead Poisoning on the Human Body

The symptoms listed above apply to lead-induced sickness, but lead poisoning can have more significant and underlying problems for the human body.

In infants and children, prolonged lead exposure can result in a spate of developmental issues.

According to the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, these developmental problems can include the following: gaps in “general intellectual functioning”; less sustained attention; disorganization in thinking and behaviour; speech problems; critical thinking problems and difficulties with fine motor skills, self-control problems, and many other issues.

Each of these problems will negatively impact the child’s progress in school and, in time, their ability to operate in society as a whole. The damage cannot be reversed, so the child and his or her family will need to overcome the fall-out of the damage through the long-term.

In adults, lead poisoning could lead to various reproductive problems, notably negative effects on sperm and eggs as well as higher risks of miscarriages and stillbirths. Likewise, lead that’s inhaled could directly reach your nerves, thereby causing neurological damage.

Ultimately, the best solution for managing lead exposure is prevention, which means removing the lead remaining in your building. However, the lead removal process is not simple; in fact, it’s a difficult job that’s regulated under provincial law. Get your environmental remediation services done right the first time by contacting a professional environmental contractor, such as FERRO Environmental.

mold, asbestos and lead exposure