Living in trail

Trail is a great place to live, work, play and raise a family.

City of Trail
View from Trail skate park

Trail is home to one the world’s largest lead and zinc smelting and refining facilities.

The smelter is a major employer and economic driver for people living in Trail and the surrounding areas. Over the past 30 years, operational environmental improvements have greatly reduced smelter emissions.  As a result of historical emissions, lead and other metals remain in dust and soil in the Trail area. Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust, and was commonly used in products such as paint and gasoline. Traces of lead can be found everywhere.

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Frequently ask questions about living in the Trail Area

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

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 studies have been done in Trail investigating Pb exposure for pregnant women and newborns?

  • The Trail Community Lead Task Force did a study of the blood lead levels of pregnant women and their newborns born in Trail from November 1993 to December 1995. This was a time when children’s blood lead levels in Trail were more than four times higher than they are today. Key findings from that study showed that children born in Trail start out with blood lead close to the “normal background”. In addition, mothers who grew up in Trail did not appear to be exposed to any greater extent than those growing up outside of Trail. Results should still be true today.
  • We encourage people planning a pregnancy or currently pregnant to discuss blood lead testing with their primary care or maternal care provider. Blood lead testing during pregnancy is optimally done after 20 weeks gestation.

What can I do to reduce lead (Pb) exposure?

Learning about possible sources of lead and how you and your child might be exposed can help you take action to reduce any risk.

Primary prevention is the most effective way to prevent lead exposure. Actions you can take to reduce the risk of lead exposure include:

  • Wash your hands and your children’s hands especially before eating and after playing outdoors.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Renovate safely. Seal off the area of work, and clean well when complete. Keep children and pregnant women away if possible.

Secondary prevention including blood lead testing and follow-up minimizes further exposure. Trail offers an annual voluntary blood lead testing clinic for children under five years old.

What supports are available to us before baby arrives?

Trail Area Health & Environment Program (THEP) is designed to help you keep your children and family healthy and safe. Sign up for a FREE Healthy Families Healthy Homes visit at or by calling 250-368-3256. Supports offered by signing up can include:

  • Information and advice on easy ways to keep the home healthy and dust-free.
  • Soil testing and/or a ground cover evaluation if your soil was previously tested.
  • Paint testing to identify any potential lead-based paint in the home.
  • Lead-safe renovation supports if you are planning renovation projects.
  • Dust buster kit for qualifying properties.

Why should I inform myself about lead (Pb) when my family is expecting?

  • It is important to be informed about lead when expecting as 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.
  • Prevention of lead exposure is possible and simple actions can reduce your babies’ risk of lead exposure.
  • THEP offers free supports to expectant families including Lead Safe Renovation supplies, soil testing and Healthy Home visits, which can include indoor paint testing for lead.
  • Experts agree there is no known safe level of lead exposure and no known safe blood lead level. Lead exposure can have detrimental effects on early childhood development and children’s future outcomes.
  • As a new parent, it is important to know that 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.

What should I know about lead if I am expecting?

  • Generally pregnant women and newborns are at low risk of adverse health effects from lead (Pb) exposure in typical every-day community situations. We strongly advise pregnant women and children avoid being exposed to dust from home renovation as this could result in higher than typical lead (Pb) exposure. This includes exposure to fine particles of lead paint in homes (this applies to any community). Please see our Lead-safe Renovation rack card for details.
  • A mother’s blood lead level affects the blood lead level of the fetus during pregnancy and is only a concern in situations where the mother has experienced higher than usual exposure, such as work exposure, home renovations, or living in parts of the world where lead exposure may be high. If a woman is pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, in a higher exposure risk situation, she should be tested by her physician or, if the timing is convenient, at one of THEP’s blood lead testing clinics. Please contact THEP’s Public Health Nurse at 250-364-6223.
  • If you work in an industry that has potential lead exposure, talk to your employer about blood lead monitoring and the potential for alternative work.
  • 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.

Why is lead a potential health concern in the Trail area?

Trail is home to one of the world’s largest lead and zinc smelting and refining facilities. Historical smelter emissions along with leaded gasoline and lead-based paint have also left legacy lead in the environment. Lead exists in all communities; however, there is more lead in Trail than a town without a lead smelter.

Low levels of lead exposure during the very early years can have impacts on children’s intelligence and attention. We also know that many things in a child’s environment can influence brain development (such as stress, trauma, nutrition, play, exploration, and nurturing).

The Trail Area Health & Environment Program (THEP) offers resources and supports to families who are expecting or have young children.

Is it safe for my family to live in Trail?

Yes, it is safe to live in Trail and the surrounding areas. Trail has an operating smelter with a robust environmental monitoring program that has demonstrated significant air emissions improvements over time. THEP continues to work on the effects of historical emissions and support people in the community to reduce exposure.

What can I do to keep my family healthy in a community with a smelter?

The most effective way to reduce children’s potential ingestion of lead is to keep indoor dust down. Connect (or reconnect) with the public health nurse and community program office for a home visit to look more closely at nutrition, diet and the home and yard environment. They will 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 lead-safe renovation supplies.

Families with children under 12 months are offered a free Healthy Families 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 is the Healthy Families Healthy Homes visit?

The Healthy Families Healthy Homes Program is an in-home visitation, health promotion program targeting expectant families and families with children under 3 years old 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 hands and objects in their mouths.

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

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

Every year, THEP offers free voluntary testing of blood lead levels for children from the age of 6 to 36 months living in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield. Children up to 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.

Why should I get my children's blood lead tested every year?

Blood lead levels vary year to year depending on where the child is spending their time (home, daycare, and outdoor play), their behaviour (crawling, hand to mouth activity) and their nutritional status (wide range of healthy foods, adequate iron stores). Blood lead testing ensures that children with elevated blood lead levels are identified and provided follow-up care. As a community, blood lead testing also helps monitor our overall progress in reducing lead exposure in the community. As lead can come from many sources, even if your home received soil management, you should continue to test your children’s blood each year.  

Are there other metals in Trail, besides lead, that residents should be aware of?

Risks from metals other than lead have been studied in Trail through human health risk assessment. The most recent study concluded that the risk from metals other than lead is very low to negligible, and that lead reduction should continue to be the main focus for THEP programs. Ongoing emissions reductions, along with soil management activities, are further reducing levels of metals in the Trail environment. Trail area health statistics have been reviewed by the B.C. Cancer Agency and Ministry of Health. They have not found evidence of increased rates of disease due to metals in the environment. 

Tips for Growing Food Locally

Home grown fruit and vegetables offer many benefits. Local studies show produce may contain metals from soil and dust, with some veggies more likely to have higher levels. Homeowners can receive soil testing, exterior paint testing for lead, and, where needed, soil management for their yard. Vegetable gardens are prioritized for soil testing and soil management. 

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Have your soil tested!

wash veges icon

Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating.

amend soil illustration

Amend your soil to help reduce metal uptake.

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Wash your hands (and your children’s hands) after working in the garden.

Choose what you grow…

The fruit parts of plants (e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, beans, etc.) have the lowest metals.

Leafy greens and root veggies are likely to have higher levels of metals

Wash leafy greens thoroughly. Washing gets rid of some, but not all of the metals.

Peel root vegetables before eating.

Questions? ​

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