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Lead occurs naturally in the environment and has many industrial uses. Trace amounts of lead are found in air, soil, household dust, food, drinking water and various consumer products. Since the early 1970s, lead exposure in Canada has decreased substantially, mainly because leaded gasoline and lead based paints were phased-out and the use of lead solder in food cans was virtually eliminated.
Short-term exposure to lead can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, convulsions, coma or even death. Chronic exposure to lead can cause appetite loss, abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, sleeplessness, irritability and headache. Severe symptoms include anaemia, damages to the nervous system, impaired mental functions and kidney dysfunction. Severe cases of lead poisoning are rare in Canada.
         Regulatory Requirements 
In Canada, the Hazardous Product Act has recently classifies lead-based paint as paint applications containing 0.06% lead content by weight (600 ppm) or 600 µg/g. Industrial processes involving lead are regulated under the Ontario Occupational Health & Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, Regulation 843 as amended by O.Reg. 109/04, Designated Substance – Lead. Exposure levels and respiratory protection in this regulation also apply to construction projects at a workplace where workers are likely to be exposed to lead.
A guideline respecting lead on construction projects was published by the Occupational Health and Safety Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Labour in September 2004. The disturbance of lead on construction projects is classified as Minimum (Type 1), Intermediate (Type 2) or Maximum (Type 3) work, each of which will have defined precautionary measures. Respiratory protection required under the guideline is dependent upon the classification of work. There is no specific requirement to monitor exposure levels.
The disposal of construction waste containing lead is controlled by the Ontario Environmental Protection Act, R.R.O., 1990, Regulation 347, General – Waste Management. The classification of the waste is dependent upon the results of leachate tests. The transport of the waste to the disposal site is controlled by the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992.