Family Health Program

Primary prevention is the most effective way to prevent lead exposure in young children.

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Mother holding toddler in yard

The Family Health Program offers a Healthy Families home visit to families with children less than 12 months of age in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield. A Public Health nurse will meet with parents to answer their questions and show simple ways to promote children’s health and well-being, and reduce lead exposure. Secondary prevention including blood lead testing and follow-up services minimizes further exposure.

Text the public health nurse 

250-231-5945

Why is the focus on young children?

Young children, especially those younger than 3 years old, are at a higher risk for lead exposure and its effects because:

  • They often put their hands and objects in their mouths.
  • They sometimes swallow non-food items.
  • Their bodies absorb lead at a higher rate.
  • Their brains are developing quickly.

Lead exposure can have detrimental effects on early childhood development and children’s future outcomes.

A pregnant woman who is exposed to lead can pass it to her baby. Lead can also be passed to a baby through the mother’s breast milk.

What have we achieved for children’s health?

Our program has been working with Trail area families since 1989.  Blood lead levels in Trail pre-school children have dropped significantly, from an average of 13.5 in 1989 to less than 3 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL) since 2018.

Mean Blood Lead Levels  for Children living in Trail, Canada and U.S

Early childhood development is integrated into the Healthy Families Healthy Homes Program. Contact the public health nurse with your questions. 

Actions to reduce the risk of lead exposure:

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Wash your hands and wash your children’s hands especially before eating and after playing outdoors.

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Eat foods that have enough iron and other vitamins and minerals. A person who eats a balanced, nutritious diet may absorb less lead. Eat at the table.

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Keep your floors dust-free by vacuuming and damp-mopping often. Leave outside shoes at the door. Damp dust frequently, especially window ledges and countertops.

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Keep outdoor play areas clean. Cover the sandbox when you are finished playing. Hose off patios, play equipment, and driveways often. Play on the grass and cover bare soil areas.

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Renovate safely. Seal off the area of work, and clean well when complete. Keep children and pregnant women away if possible.

Family Health FAQs

What is the Healthy Families Healthy Homes program?

The Healthy Families Healthy Homes Program (HFHH) is an in-home visitation, health promotion program targeting expectant families and families with children aged 0-3 years in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield. This is a time when children are more at risk of exposure to lead in their home environment as they are beginning to crawl, explore their world and put objects and hands in their mouths.

Each family receives two visits, one from an Interior Health Public Health RN (the Healthy Families visit) and one from a trained professional at the H&G Program. Visits focus on prevention of lead exposure and strengthening the children’s healthy development through education, awareness and supplies to help parents take action immediately.

What are the concerns about lead?

Most lead enters the body through the mouth via eating, drinking or breathing in dust containing lead. Young children are at a higher risk for lead exposure and its effects because:

  • They often put their hands and objects in their mouths. 
  • They sometimes swallow non-food items. 
  • Their bodies absorb lead at a higher rate. 
  • Their brains are developing quickly. 

There is no known safe level of lead exposure and no known safe blood lead concentration. Lead is most harmful to children younger than age 6 (especially those younger than age 3). Lead exposure can have detrimental effects on early childhood development and children’s future outcomes. A pregnant woman who is exposed to lead can pass it to her baby through the mother’s breast milk. 

Still, there are actions you can take to help reduce your family’s exposure to lead. 

What are the concerns about other metals?

Two other metals emitted from the smelter 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.

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.

Is it safe for my family to live in Trail?

Yes. Trail is a great place to live, work and raise a family. There are lots of positive things happening in Trail and the Trail Area Health & Environment Program (THEP) proactively supports families to have a safe and active lifestyle here. 

Living next door to the smelter has created unique challenges in terms of minimizing exposure to lead in house dust and soil, mainly caused by historical emissions. There have been major air quality improvements and we are actively working on historical emissions (such as in the soil). 

THEP actively supports healthy child development through a variety of programs. This includes our Healthy Family Healthy Homes program which includes two home visits from a nurse and home specialist to share information and provide supports to minimize exposure to metals.

Families with children and expectant families, please call or text the public health nurse with any questions: 250-231-5945.

What can I do to keep my family healthy?

There are many things you can do to help reduce exposure and ingestion of lead by your child. The most effective way is to keep indoor dust down. It’s important to connect (or reconnect) with the public health nurse and home garden representative for a home visit to look more closely at nutrition, diet and the home and yard environment. They will also connect with you community resources and groups that support early childhood development. They can also provide useful supplies to keep dust down in the home environment such as a vacuum (or replacement bags), dust buster kits, hand soap, and links to lead safe renovation supplies.

Families with children under 12 months are offered a free Healthy Family home visit. A Public Health nurse will meet with parents to answer their questions and show simple ways to promote children’s health and wellbeing, and reduce lead exposure. Young children in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield are invited to have their blood lead levels tested each year starting from the age of 6 months to 36 months. 

All programs are voluntary.

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

Damp mop bare floors and damp wipe window sills, furniture, benches, toys, baseboards and other surfaces that children touch in order not to stir up dust.  Dry sweeping is not recommended as it lifts dust into the air only to have some of it settle back down again.  

Areas where food is prepared or eaten, and floors or surfaces where babies or toddlers spend lots of time should always be kept clean.

For carpeted floors, use 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. 

Please note housecleaning doesn’t replace the need for good family hygiene and nutrition.  Always wash your hands and children’s hands, especially before eating and after playing outdoors.  Leave outside shoes at the door. Renovate safely, sealing off the area of work. Eat regular meals high in calcium, Vitamin C, and iron.

Sign up online for a Healthy Family Healthy Home visit to learn more. 

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

Every year, our program offers free voluntary testing of blood lead for children from the age of 6-36 months living in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield. Children up to the age of 5 years old from other Lower Columbia communities are welcome to attend. Clinics are typically held in September with a follow up clinic in February.

Please contact the Interior Health Public Health Nurse for details. 

Call 250-364-6223 or Text 250-231-5945

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.  The City’s drinking water is believed to be at low risk of leaching lead from the distribution system. This is supported by water quality monitoring and testing at a number of locations throughout the city’s drinking water system. For more information, contact info@trail.ca

If you have concerns about lead pipes in your home, you can have your water tested.  Click this link for labs in BC approved by the Provincial Health Officer for drinking water. 

HealthLinkBC provides additional information on Lead in Drinking Water including how you can protect yourself and family (https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/lead-drinking-water).

Finally, if you don’t know what kind of pipes you have, this is a helpful 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