In the Soil.

Some toxic metals can occur naturally in soil, and chemicals can get into soil from leaks or spills or activities like spraying pesticides. Chemicals in soil can enter your body through your mouth, nose, or skin. Chemicals in soil can also get in to water, dust, and food. 

Some common chemicals found in soil include:


Pesticides are designed to be toxic and have been associated with human health effects including cancer, and negative effects on the reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. Some pesticides are very persistent in the environment and can be measured in soil many years after they were used (or banned). Pesticides applied to your property, for example to kill weeds in your lawn or garden, can be harmful to adults, children, and pets. Pesticides sprayed on farms or forestry operations can drift with the wind and affect nearby soil. Dry pesticide-laden soil can be moved around by the wind as dust. 

Pesticides are carefully tested and monitored in Canada and are deemed safe by the Government if used in accordance to the label directions. However, current government processes consider a person’s exposure to a single chemical and cannot account a mixture of exposures. Further, sensitive populations such as those living with existing health conditions or chemical sensitivities may not be sufficiently protected through the current process of deeming a pesticide to be safe. 


used prior to the 1970s to make paint more durable and in gasoline to prevent engine knocking. Lead is also naturally occurring in soil in some parts of Canada. Lead is extremely persistent in the environment and accumulates in the human body. Exposures throughout your lifetime build up and can cause anemia, kidney and brain and central nervous system damage. Lead exposure can cause miscarriage, stillbirths, and infertility (in both men and women). Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to intellectual and behaviour effects of lead exposure. Fetuses in utero are exposed to lead in the mother’s blood, which have accumulated throughout her lifetime. 

What You Can Do

  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating
  • Remove you shoes at the door to prevent tracking soil into your home
  • Do not use pesticides on your lawn or garden
  • When choosing a home, determine if pesticides are sprayed or other industrial exposures are present in the area 

We provide science-based information gathered from trustworthy sources. For further reading, you can check out our sources, which include:

  • Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention, Pregnant Women

  • McKeague and Wolyynetz, 1980. Geoderma, Volume 24, Issue 4. Background Levels of minor elements in some Canadian soils.

  • Government of Canada: Consumer Products Containing Lead Regulations (SOR/2018-83)

  • Government of Canada: Lead Information Package – Some Commonly Asked Questions About Lead and Human Health

  • Government of Canada: The Atlas of Canada – Minerals and Mining

  • Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat: Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory (contact your local environment department to access information on contaminated properties under Provincial jurisdiction)

  • Official website of the Gouvernement du Québec : Pesticides and health risks

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency: Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety 

  • National Pesticides Information Center (NPIC) publications

  • Canadian Association for Physicians for the Environment: Pesticides and Health