Lead is present throughout SFU in two common forms: lead materials (e.g. x-ray shielding aprons or lead-acid batteries) and lead-based paints & coatings.  These materials do not pose a health hazard unless they are disturbed. For general inquiries about hazardous building materials, please contact hazmat_work@sfu.ca.  



Lead is a naturally occurring metal.  Its high density, malleability, corrosion-resistant nature and affordability makes lead prevalent in many industrial applications.

Lead was commonly added to paints and coatings to make them dry quickly, increase their durability and to make their colours more vibrant.  Lead content varies widely within paints and coatings. Lead can also be used in computer and TV screens, as well as in laboratories for radiation shielding.  However, the most common use is in emergency light lead-acid batteries.

Health risks

A lead-based paint, coating or material is only a health risk if it ingested, or if it is disturbed and becomes airborne and inhaled.

Health effects can follow after high exposure over a short period of time (acute poisoning), or long-term exposure to lower doses (chronic poisoning).  This can impact your brain, nervous system, blood system and kidneys.  Children are at greater risk because their bodies are still developing and can absorb lead more easily.  Unborn children are also at a greater risk if their pregnant mother is exposed.

Lead at SFU

As a member of the university community:

  • Be aware that lead-based paints, coatings and materials are present on campus and it may be found in the buildings you occupy
  • Understand that if lead-based paints, coatings and materials are intact and in good condition that it does not pose a health concern
  • Refrain from damaging painted/coated materials as they could potentially contain lead
  • Do not rip or uninstall items off of walls or ceilings
  • Inform your supervisor and EHS if you notice paint chip debris or damaged building materials such as walls, ceilings or pipe fittings