2021 Winnipeg Lead in Soil Survey

1. Why did the province conduct the soil study?

This study was completed to supplement existing data in potentially higher risk neighborhoods identified in the 2019 Intrinsik Report Lead in Soils in Winnipeg.

2. What does this study reveal?

The study found that levels of lead in surface soil continues to decrease in Winnipeg. Just over 94 percent of soils tested were below the CCME guidelines. Almost 6 percent of the soil samples exceeded the CCME guidelines. The province is working with stakeholders who own these sites where levels exceeded the guidelines to ensure appropriate action is taken to mitigate risk. A link to the study can be found at manitoba.ca/leadaware.

3. What does it mean if the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) guideline is exceeded?

There are two types of guidelines developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). There are guidelines that protect the environment and ones that protect human health.

Soil quality guidelines for human health identify concentrations of soil contaminants that may cause an increased risk to health. These guidelines are very conservative and consider the most sensitive user of the land, a toddler with year round exposure to the soil. In winter in Manitoba, there is little to no exposure when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.

If concentrations are over these guidelines further assessment of risk is required to determine if action is needed.

4. Why is there a second guidelines for human health referenced in the report?

The province had previously commissioned work to develop specific guidelines for Winnipeg based on current science considering the winter months with minimal soil exposure. Intrinsik proposed a Winnipeg specific guideline range based on CCME scientific rationale. This is why the report uses both the CCME and the Intrinsik guidelines.

5. How do I know if there is lead in soil on my property or where my children play?

Lead is common in soil in older urban areas. However, the main sources of lead exposure are declining as the historical causes of lead in soil contamination such as lead in paint and leaded gasoline have been reduced. In addition, Winnipeg no longer has any lead smelters.

If you live in older parts of the city, there may be some lead in the soil on your property. Homes built before 1990 could have lead in the soil near fences and the house due to previous use of lead paint. The older the home, the greater the risk of increased lead concentrations in the soil. In addition, homes built along older streets with heavy traffic or near airports may have lead in the soil due to use of leaded gasoline. Homes in Winnipeg near industrial sources of lead can also have higher levels of lead in the soil. See the provincial lead fact sheet manitoba.ca/leadaware for other possible sources of lead exposure.

6. What is the risk of lead in soil to my health and my children's health?

The health risk of lead in soil is considered to be low.

Everyone is exposed to trace amounts of lead through air, soil, household dust, food, drinking water, and consumer products.

Children and fetuses are more sensitive to lead exposure than adults. Even low levels of exposure can have negative effects on behaviour and intellectual development. The higher and longer the lead exposure, the greater the effect.

Studies indicate that exposure to soil with increased levels of lead may slightly increase blood lead levels. If you have concerns that areas of your yard may have increased lead in soil, there are precautionary measures that you can take that may prevent lead exposure: manitoba.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/lead/docs/homes_fs.pdf.

People should avoid ingesting soil. This can happen when a child puts soil in their mouth while playing, or when someone eats garden vegetables without washing them first.

For information on the precautions for lead in soil and home gardening, see:

7. I live close to the areas identified in the report with some elevated soil concentration results. Can my children play in a playground at their school or park?

The health risk of lead in soil is considered to be low. Lead enters the body if soil is inhaled as dust, or is swallowed by not washing garden vegetables or your hands before eating. When contaminated soil is covered with sod, concrete, asphalt, etc., the exposure is greatly reduced.  In winter, there is little to no exposure when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.

If you have concerns that areas of your yard or the playground/park where your child plays may have increased lead in soil, there are measures you can take that may prevent lead exposure. See the provincial lead fact sheet: manitoba.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/lead/docs/homes_fs.pdf.

8. Can I eat the food grown in my home garden?

If precautions are taken, the health risks associated with backyard gardening, even in contaminated soil, are low to very low unless soil contamination levels are very high. For more information on home gardening and how to reduce your risk, please see: gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/home_gardens.html and manitoba.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/lead/docs/homes_fs.pdf.

9. What steps can I take to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in soil?

Lead in soil can be managed by taking some precautions when gardening. This fact sheet provides advice on how to assess your garden site for potential contaminants, ways to manage soil contamination and general gardening safety tips: gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/home_gardens.html and manitoba.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/lead/docs/homes_fs.pdf.

Children and adults can take precautions to avoid exposure to lead in soil by washing their hands after playing or working outside, in particular before snacks and meals. If you are concerned that soil may contain increased concentrations of lead, do not allow toddlers to play in the mud and ensure that they do not eat the soil. Cover bare soil to prevent blowing dust.

For more information on lead and soil and precautions see:

10. How can I get my soil tested?

People who may be concerned about lead soil levels on their property can contact one of the accredited laboratories in Winnipeg: ALS Environmental or Bureau Veritas. They will supply the appropriate sampling container(s) to conduct your sampling needs. However, soil testing can be expensive and can cost as much as taking precautionary measures such as making a raised bed garden or covering bare areas with grass. See:  manitoba.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/lead/docs/homes_fs.pdf.

11. What specific steps is the province taking?

Manitoba is committed to working with our partners to continue to reduce sources of lead exposure.

Lead in soil is one of a number of potential sources of lead exposure.  The province has developed educational materials to educate the public, parents and caregivers on sources of lead exposure and will be working with partners to share the information.  For more information on sources of lead exposure that may be found in and around your home, including lead in soil, see the Lead Aware website manitoba.ca/leadaware.

The province is making blood lead levels reportable. That means that primary care providers who recommend that patients be tested for blood lead levels (based on a clinical assessment) will be required to report on elevated results. Results will be monitored by Public Health to determine whether additional measures need to be implemented depending on what the testing results show over time.

12. What should I do if I am concerned about my health?

If you have concerns about your own or your child's exposure to lead, contact Health Links–Info Santé: 788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll-free) or speak with your health care provider.  If needed, a blood lead test can be done.

13. Where can I get more information?

For more information on lead, please see the provincial website manitoba.ca/leadaware.

You can also view the gardening and soil contaminants fact sheet gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/home_gardens.html.







Public Health | Environmental Health
Manitoba Health

4th Floor - 300 Carlton St.
Winnipeg MB  R3B 3M9
Phone: 204-788-6735
Fax: 204-948-2040