Family Health

What are the concerns about lead?

There is growing scientific evidence that low levels of lead exposure may be harmful to young children. Studies of large groups (“populations”) of children 5 years and under show that adverse developmental, behavioural, and health risks from lead exposure can occur at low levels. At the levels we currently see in Trail, these effects would be subtle and not likely to be noticeable or measurable in individual children.

The less lead exposure the better – less exposure means lower health risks. There have been significant improvements in children’s blood lead levels in Trail over the past 25 years. In 1989, under 20% of pre-school children had blood leads under 10 micrograms per decilitre. Now around 90% of children have blood lead levels under 10 and we aim to keep increasing that percentage. 

The main health risks to do with lead come from dust, and the main risks are to young children. Most lead enters the body through the mouth on food, dirty fingers, toys or other objects that have lead dust on them.

Young children are most likely to put dirty objects in their mouths. Young children absorb lead up to 5 times more easily than older children or adults. Also, the early years are a crucial time for children’s brain development, just when they’re also at the greatest risk for the effects of lead exposure.

The Trail Area Health & Environment Program is designed to prevent children’s lead exposure and keep children and families healthy and safe. Young children in Trail and Rivervale should have their blood lead levels tested each year, from the time they start crawling until 3 years of age. Interior Health Public Health RN, Jeannine Stefani has expertise, information and supports available to families with young children.

Please read the Family Health Fact Sheet and contact Jeannine Stefani at (250) 364-6223.

What are the concerns about other metals?

Lead is not the only metal emitted from the smelter. Two other metals of potential concern are arsenic and cadmium. Emissions of these metals have dropped dramatically over the past decades, but they are still present in the Trail environment at higher than normal levels.

Long-term exposure to low levels of arsenic can increase the risk for several types of cancers. Long-term exposure to low levels of cadmium can increase the risk of kidney disease and several other conditions including high blood pressure and cancers.

In Trail, the health risks from living here for a lifetime and eating local produce are such that it would be highly unlikely to measure increased illness in the population. Trail area health statistics have been reviewed by the BC Cancer Agency and Ministry of Health. They have not found evidence of increased rates of disease due to metals in the environment.

As with lead, the aim is to minimize exposure to these other metals. Therefore, arsenic and cadmium are considered when setting air quality goals and developing programs for soil testing and remediation, particularly related to vegetable gardens.

Is Trail a healthy place for children to live?

Trail is a great place to raise a family – a great place to live, play, and go to school. Retired Medical Health Officer, Dr. Nelson Ames worked for over 20 years on lead issues in Trail. Dr. Ames states “I would have no hesitation to live in Trail and I would have no hesitation to live there if I had young children.”

Air quality and children’s blood lead levels have improved significantly since our program began in 1989. Around 90% of Trail & Rivervale preschoolers have blood lead levels below 10 micrograms per decilitre compared with less than 20% in 1989.  Stack emissions of lead have reduced by 99.5% since the 1990s and Teck has a multi-year program to further reduce emissions.

We target many of our programs to families with young children or who are expecting children. This includes Healthy Families and Healthy Homes in-home visits, soil testing, and yard improvement work.  We reach out pro-actively to find all new families and expectant families in order to prevent lead exposure for all children.

Please read the Family Health and Home & Garden Fact Sheets for tips on how to minimize your family’s exposure to metals at home and in your yard. If you live in Trail or Rivervale and have children under 3 years of age, please make sure they have their blood lead levels tested each year until they reach 36 months.

If you have any concerns, please contact Jeannine Stefani, Interior Health Public Health RN at (250) 364-6223 or the Community Program Office at 1319 Bay Avenue or (250) 368-3256.

What can I do to keep my family healthy?

It is important to follow good hygiene practices, like washing hands, keeping dust and dirt out of the house, damp mopping and damp dusting frequently, keeping dust down outside, and covering bare soil areas in your yard.

Our program offers in-home visits to expectant families and families with children under 3 years of age in Trail and Rivervale. Families are offered a free Healthy Home visit including a yard assessment, soil testng, and information and advice on keeping the home and yard environment healthy.

Families with children under 12 months are also offered a free Healthy Family visit from the Interior Health Public Health Registered Nurse.  This visit includes information and advice on how to support the children’s health and development, and prevent their exposure to lead. Young children in Trail and Rivervale should have their blood lead levels tested each year starting from the age of 6 months and going until 36 months.  All programs are voluntary.

Interior Health Public Health RN, Jeannine Stefani, has expertise, information and supports available to families with young children.

Please read the Family Health Fact Sheet and, for more information, contact Jeannine Stefani at (250) 364-6223.

What should I do if I want to reduce dust in my home?

f you are an expectant family or family with a child 36 months or under in Trail or Rivervale, you qualify for our Healthy Homes Program. This includes an in-home visit from one of our Home & Garden team to review household hygiene and how to keep your home healthy and safe.  Call the Community Program Office at (250) 368-3256 to sign up for this free service.

Also, please read the Family Health and Home & Garden Fact Sheets on this website. If you are planning a home renovation, please check out the I’m Renovating section of the website.

The information in our Quick Tips and brochures gives good general guidance on reducing household dust.  Here are a few more details:

How often do I need to Clean?

As a general rule, damp mop, vacuum and damp dust weekly.  Every two weeks is a minimum for a good overall cleaning of floors, baseboards, windowsills, toys etc.  Areas or things that are visibly dusty, dirty or muddy need more frequent cleaning.  This includes muddy or dirty entranceways, toys or parts of the floor with visible dust.  Areas where food is prepared or eaten, and floors or surfaces where babies or toddlers spend lots of time should always be kept clean.

How Can I Clean without Stirring Up Dust?

Damp mop bare floors and damp wipe window sills, furniture, benches, toys, baseboards and other surfaces that children touch.  Dry sweeping is not recommended as it lifts dust into the air only to have some of it settle back down again.  Instead, damp mop and wipe to catch dust so it can’t blow around.

For carpeted floors, we recommend using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or ducted vacuum system.  These vacuums filter fine dust particles and prevent dust from recirculating in the room. After you vacuum, some dust stays suspended in the air for a while.  Try to leave the room for about an hour after vacuuming, then come back in and damp wipe.  If you’re thinking about removing carpets, it’s good to know that hard floors are much easier to keep clean.

Finally, housecleaning doesn’t replace the need for good family hygiene and nutrition.  Remember to wash your hands and children’s hands frequently, and always before eating and when coming in from outdoors.  Leave your shoes at the door; eat regular meals high in calcium, Vitamin C, and iron; and keep doing all the other great things you do to keep your family healthy!

For more information, contact the Community Program Office at (250) 368-3256 or contact Jeannine Stefani, Interior Health Public Health RN at (250) 364-6223.

What should I do if I want to get my child’s blood lead level tested?

Please contact the Interior Health Public Health RN at (250) 364-6223. Interior Health conducts regular blood lead testing each September and February with the fall clinic being the main one. We target children for blood lead testing if they live or spend most of their time in Trail or Rivervale and are between the ages of 6 and 36 months. Parents in any Lower Columbia (ie. Greater Trail) community may request blood lead testing for their child up to age 60 months. We would encourage families with young children living in homes that are being renovated or have been recently renovated to have their children tested.

Is drinking water a source of lead exposure in Trail?

Lead in drinking water is not considered a source of lead exposure in the City of Trail.  The City’s drinking water is tested regularly at its two sources and confirmed to meet all the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for metals (including lead), chemicals and other potential risks to water quality.  In addition it is confirmed that lead levels remain below the detectable limit at locations throughout the city’s distribution system. For more information, contact info@trail.ca

The Trail Community Lead Task Force studied the sources of lead in Trail, and concluded that lead in drinking water was not a concern.  More details can be found on pages 18 and 19 of: http://www.thep.ca/upload/resources/38/thep_tffinalreport_2001_original.pdf

If you have concerns about lead pipes in your home, you can have your water tested.  Click this link for a list of approved labs in BC: http://www.fraserhealth.ca/media/Approved-Laboratories-for-Drinking-Water-Microbiology-Testing_2015.pdf  Also, Health Canada provides a number of tips including running your tap first thing each morning. (See http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/alt_formats/hecs-sesc/pdf/pubs/water-eau/lead-plomb-eng.pdf)

FInally, if you don’t know what kind of pipes you have, here is handy online tool to test whether you are likely to have lead water pipes: 

https://apps.npr.org/find-lead-pipes-in-your-home/en/#intro

Why should I get my home tested for radon?

Our program promotes radon awareness as a community service because it is an important environmental health issue.  Everyone should get their home tested for radon.  Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can accumulate in buildings and cannot be smelled, tasted or seen.  It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.  Some homes in the West Kootenays test above the Health Canada guidelines and you can’t predict the levels in your home, even based on test results from your neighbours.  The only way to know the exposure level in your home is to test. The best time to test for radon is over the winter when doors and windows are shut.  You need to leave the test kit in place for 3 months.  We supply radon test kits at our Community Program Office for a suggested $15 donation to cover costs.  The Donna Schmidt Memorial Lung Cancer Prevention Society provides tax receipts for the donations.

General

Why do different program elements apply to different geographic areas?

THE Program focuses on having the biggest impact on preventing exposure to metals and reducing health risks. For example, the Family Health Program targets families of preschoolers in Trail and Rivervale. These are the communities where blood lead levels above the typical range are most likely to occur. Our goal for reduced blood lead goal is measured against annual test results for children in these communities.  

Children’s blood lead testing is offered every 5 years in Warfield, Oasis, Casino and Waneta.  Children in these communities have lower lead levels than in Trail and Rivervale; we monitor periodically to ensure that this continues to be the case and that children and families in all Lower Columbia communities receive appropriate services.

Our program also looks for ways to extend services to other people who want or need them. For instance, if you live outside Trail or Rivervale, you can request to have your young child’s blood lead tested up to the age of 60 months. Also, the Lead Safe Renovation Program offers its services to renovators of older pre-1976 homes throughout the Lower Columbia.

How is my local government involved in the health & environment program?

The Mayor of Trail chairs the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee, and there is regular representation from Warfield. Representatives from RDKB Areas A and B participate as needed. All local governments in the Lower Columbia are invited to meetings of the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee.

How can I get more involved in the program?

You can attend meetings of the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee, which are open to the public. Meeting dates & times are listed on the home page.  Also, we have a Community and Families Working Group that provides input into programs and communication with the community; this is a great way to become involved.

Please contact the Community Program Office at (250) 368-3256 and let us know how you’d like to get involved and/or to provide feedback on our programs. We’d like to hear from you!

Home Renovation

What should I do if I want to renovate my home?

Please contact the Community Program Office at 1319 Bay Avenue or (250) 368-3256 for information on the Lead Safe Renovation Program supports and information available to you.  Also, look at the I’m Renovating section of this website for lead safe renovation videos and a description of the customized programs for Do-It-Yourselfers, contractors, and people hiring contractors. The Lead Safe Renovation Program applies to all homes in Trail and Rivervale and pre-1976 homes anywhere in Greater Trail.

What should I do if I am a building contractor or professional home renovator?

Check out the Contractor section on this website.  For more information, or to become a Trail Area Lead Safe Contractor, please contact the Community Program Office at 1319 Bay Ave. or (250) 368-3256.

Soils Program

Why is a soil management plan necessary?
  • Teck is the responsible party for the Soil Management Plan under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • Teck is working with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to develop and seek approval for a long-term soil management plan called a Wide Area Remediation Plan. Once that plan is drafted, a full public consultation will take place prior to approval and implementation. The 2019 Soil Management Plan is an interim step focused on highest risk properties.
  • The Wide Area Remediation Plan will continue to build on the work we have been doing to address historical soil impacts in Trail and the surrounding area.
  • Metallurgical facilities have been operating in Trail for well over a century. Historical emissions from these facilities have resulted in the addition of metals, including lead, into the soil in the surrounding area. As a result, soil in the Trail area is likely to have metals above natural background levels and regulatory standards.
  • In recent years, major improvements have been made to lower metal emissions from Teck Trail Operations, resulting in improved air quality. This means that Teck is not adding as many metals such as lead into the soil.
  • These improvements include a 99 per cent reduction in stack emissions since the 1990s, as well as a successful fugitive dust reduction program, which addresses dust that escapes from buildings, stockpiles and roads.
  • In 2018, Teck achieved the lowest ever recorded annual average for lead in air. Building on previous improvements, since 2016, Trail Operations has realized a 47 per cent reduction in lead community ambient air.
  • We can now focus more on addressing the historical impacts to soil from past emissions.
What is the 2019 Soil Management Plan?
  • The Trail Area Health and Environment Program is expanding its longstanding soil assessment and management program that has been in place since 2007. This program includes soil testing and, in qualifying yards, replacement of soil or improvements to ground cover on a prioritized basis.
  • Given the large number of households in these areas, assessments will be prioritized based on the presence of children under 12 within areas that are known to have the highest levels of lead in the soil, such as those neighbourhoods closest to the operation.
  • The 2019 Soil Management Plan is being conducted under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • The program is overseen by the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee, a sub-committee of the City of Trail, with government, community and industry members.
  • Teck is the responsible party for the Soil Management Plan under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • All soil assessment and improvement work is coordinated by the Trail Area Health and Environment Program, through funding provided by Teck.
What does it mean to live with metals in soil?
  • For most people, the risks associated with metals in soil are low, particularly where soils are covered by grass or other materials; however, bare soils may increase exposure to metals and contribute to elevated lead levels in children.
  • There are a number of ways residents can minimize their exposure. These include:
    • Covering bare soil areas in your yard by improving lawn areas, mulching gardens or covering exposed areas with landscape fabric and rock;
    • Following good hygiene practices, including washing hands after playing outside and before eating;
    • Taking shoes off at the door, and having floor mats at entryways;
    • Vacuuming, wet dusting and mopping frequently; and
    • Hosing off decks and patios and wiping down outdoor play equipment and furniture.
  • For more information and tips on avoiding exposure to metals, visit us online at www.thep.ca.
How do you plan to address lead in the soil?
  • As in previous years, measures to manage exposure to lead and other metals in the soil may include the replacement of soil in yards and/or gardens in qualifying yards. In other cases, improvements to ground cover, such as planting grass, may be made as an interim measure.
  • Our programs are voluntary so it is your choice if you would like your soil to be tested.
Can you tell me more about your prioritization criteria?
  • In 2019, we are expanding our longstanding soil assessment and management program that has been in place since 2007.
  • We’ll be starting by offering testing to interested households that have children under 12 in areas that are known to have the highest lead levels in the soil, such as those closest to the operation.
  • Following soil testing, we’ll use three criteria to determine how properties are prioritized for soil management: the presence of children under 12 years of age, the presence of ground cover, and lead levels in soil.
How is the presence of children defined?

In the 2019 Soil Management Plan, priority will be given to properties where children under 12 live, or visit regularly. This would include where children are present two or more days each week for periods of three hours or more, or a total of 60 hours or more each year.

What are the regulatory standards that this plan is based on?
  • The 2019 Soil Management Plan is an interim plan, conducted under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • Teck is working with the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Strategy to develop and seek approval for a long-term soil management plan, called a Wide Area Remediation Plan. Once that plan is drafted a full public consultation will take place prior to approval and implementation.
  • The Wide Area Remediation Plan will continue to build on the work have been doing to address historical soil impacts in Trail and the surrounding area.
Why are you looking at a wider area than in the past?
  • The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has defined an area for a future Wide Area Remediation Plan called the Teck, Trail Environmental Management Area (EMA). An EMA is a specific area that contains specified contaminants from one specific source, covers a larger geographic area and parcels within the site would likely be contaminated with one or more of the specified contaminants. For more information, please see the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Fact Sheet on Wide Area Sites.
  • The EMA is being used as the subject area for the 2019 Soil Management Plan and includes Trail, Rivervale, Warfield, Montrose, south Castlegar, areas of RDKB Area A and B, areas of RDCK Area J and the edges of Rossland.
  • As would be expected, metal levels in soil are higher closer to the operation, and decline to near natural background concentrations toward periphery areas. As such, properties in those periphery areas may require no action.
  • Given the large number of properties in the area, our immediate focus will continue to be on those properties that are expected to have higher levels of metals in the soil, such as those nearest the smelter.
Does this just apply to residential properties or are playgrounds, daycares and schools also included?
  • Soil assessment and prioritized soil management will apply to playgrounds, daycares and schools.
  • It is important to note that, generally speaking, ground cover is typically very good in parks and playgrounds. If you notice poor ground cover at parks or playgrounds please contact the City of Trail and/or the THEP Community Program Office.
  • Parks and playgrounds in the wider Trail area have been previously included in the soil assessment testing, and this data will be re-assessed to identify any additional work required under the new prioritization approach.
Why are you now focusing on properties with children up to 12 years old?
  • The prioritization of children under 12 allows us to focus on the age group that is the most likely to be exposed to metals in soil. Older children in this age group have a higher tolerance to exposure, while younger children under 6 years of age have lower tolerance to exposure. Our prioritization approach reflects these tolerance levels.
  • It is important to note that our soil management program is just one aspect of the Trail Area Health and Environment Program. Other existing components of the program will continue, including Healthy Homes and Family Health, focusing on families with children up to 3 years old, and Lead Safe Renovation for do-it-yourself renovators.
When will the expanded soil management program begin?
  • We have already identified a number of the highest-priority properties and our goal is to remediate or improve those properties in 2019, along with any additional properties that are identified as high-priority by the end of June.
  • We expect to provide full yard soil remediation and/or soil improvement at approximately 200 properties in the 2019 work season (compared to 58 in 2018). Properties identified after June 30, 2019 or any properties that could not be remediated for various reasons may be prioritized for the 2020 field season.
Who is paying for soil management?
  • There is no cost to the landowner for this work to be undertaken. All soil assessment and improvement work is coordinated and paid for by the Trail Area Health and Environment Program, through funding provided by Teck.
  • The program is overseen by the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee, a sub-committee of the City of Trail, with government, community and industry members.
  • Teck is the responsible party for the Soil Management Program under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • Teck Metals has invested approximately $5 million toward the soil management program this year alone as part of its continued commitment to healthy homes and gardens in the Trail area.
  • It is expected that these programs will continue for many years to come.
What should I do if I want my garden soil tested?
  • Please visit our downtown Trail Community Program Office at 1319 Bay Avenue, phone us at 250-368-3256 or email us at programs@thep.ca.
  • If you have a vegetable garden, please contact our office. Vegetable gardens remain within our priority focus for the Home & Garden program.
Where can I get more information?

For more information, visit our downtown Trail Community Program Office at 1319 Bay Avenue, call 250-368-3256, or email programs@thep.ca