Canada has passed a sweeping lead ban, the most comprehensive since Parliament prohibited the retail sale of leaded gasoline in 1990. According to a news release from the Department of Environment on Feb. 16, an estimated 110 tonnes of lead from wheel weights fall off tire rims and are released into the environment along Canadian roads each year. This dust is hazardous, as it can accumulate in soil, enter waterways, or be inhaled. Lead is known to be damaging to the nervous and reproductive systems of both humans and wildlife, and can affect the kidneys and cardiovascular system in humans.
In response to this, the government has published the “Prohibition of the Manufacture and Importation of Wheel Weights Containing Lead Regulations” on Feb. 15. Effective Feb. 3, 2024, no one is allowed to manufacture or import wheel balance weights containing more than 0.1 percent lead by weight without a federal permit.
According to the Canada Gazette, lead is the most common material used for wheel balancing in the Canadian wheel weight market. The new regulations came about as a result of consultation from 2014 to 2017 with industry and non-governmental and non-profit organizations.
Laurie Chan, Canada Research Chair in Toxicology and Environmental Health at the University of Ottawa, stated that his team has learned more about lead toxicity, particularly around children’s neurodevelopment, in the past decade. He believes that there is no safe level of lead and any level can cause harm to the brain, particularly in young children.
In 1976, the Canadian government restricted the amount of lead in household paints and other liquid coatings on furniture, household products, children’s products, and other surfaces by 0.5 percent by weight. In 2018, a study commissioned by the federal Environment Department identified another source of lead poisoning—fishing jigs, sinkers, and ammunition.
Since 1997, cabinet has restricted the use of lead jigs and sinkers by anglers in national parks and wildlife areas. However, according to records obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter through the Access to Information Act, the Department of Environment in 2017 dropped all proposals to ban lead products used in hunting and fishing.