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It’s Time to End Wildlife Poisoning from Lead Hunting Ammunition

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Lead has been known to be highly toxic for more than 2,000 years. Its use in water pipes, cosmetics, pottery and food is suspected to have been a contributing factor in the collapse of the Roman Empire. It is dangerous even at low levels; exposure can cause death or severe health effects, from acute, paralytic poisoning and seizures to subtle, long-term mental impairment, miscarriage, neurological damage, impotence or impaired reproduction and growth inhibition.

In recent decades, the federal government has implemented regulations to reduce human lead exposure in drinking water, batteries, paint, gasoline, toys, toxic dumps, wheel balancing weights and shooting ranges.

The same approach needs to be taken to protect our wildlife. At least 75 wild bird species are poisoned by spent lead ammunition, including bald eagles, golden eagles, ravens and endangered California condors. Despite being banned in 1992 for hunting waterfowl, spent lead shotgun pellets continue to be frequently ingested by swans, cranes, ducks, geese, loons and other waterfowl. Many birds also consume lead-based fishing tackle lost in lakes and rivers, often with deadly consequences.

Lead ammunition also poses health risks to people when bullets fragment in shot game spread throughout the meat that humans eat. Studies using radiographs show that numerous imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead can infect meat up to a foot and a half away from the bullet wound, causing a greater health risk to humans who consume lead-shot game than previously thought. State health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of lead contamination. Nearly 10 million hunters, their families and low-income beneficiaries of venison donations may be at risk.

In denying a 2010 lead ban petition, the EPA claimed it lacked authority to regulate toxic lead bullets and shot under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which controls manufacture, processing and distribution of dangerous chemicals in the United States, including lead. Yet congressional documents and the language of the Act explicitly contradict the agency’s claim. The House of Representatives’ report on the history and intent of the Act states it does not exclude from regulation under the bill chemical components of ammunition which could be hazardous because of their chemical properties.

EPA clearly has the authority to regulate lead ammunition. For the sake of wildlife and public health, it’s time to make that happen — please sign the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition today.

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Trumpeter Swan photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/Paruula

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12:23PM PDT on Oct 1, 2012


8:50PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

Most military aren't shooting their ammo into streams, where waterfowl might ingest it- and aren't shooting animals, then leaving the lead contaminated gut piles out where condors will eat it- so the idea that we would need to provide lead free bullets to our military is not valid.

8:43PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

I just looked up the cost of lead-free ammunition. Rifle rounds cost over $1 per round (a round is the bullet projectile + explosive powder charge + cartridge case + primer).

Such a ban would have to include the U.S. military, as they fire more rounds in training each year than all sports shooters put together.

Can we afford to provide lead-free ammunition to our armed forces? Not in today's economy.

8:30PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

I expect there's a lot more lead poisoning caused by the lead in fishing weights.

Think about it - the birds listed feed on fish that have swallowed lead fishing accessories or the birds see a sparkling lure in a stream and swallow it - complete with lead weights attached.

Steel bullets wrapped with a soft metal jacket (for handguns or rifles) would probably be an option for shooters, though I doubt the police would like civilians having them, as steel would not deform on contact with body armour.

I believe steel shot loaded cartridges are already available for shotguns and frankly I think they should be standard, as even when shooting clay, the shot would be scattered all over a wide area of the environment.

It could be optional for target shooters, as the sand or earth filled backstops behind the targets already contain the lead where it can be recycled.

10:18PM PDT on May 21, 2012

If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. ---St. Francis of Assisi

1:28PM PDT on May 12, 2012

Signed and shared

9:27AM PDT on May 12, 2012


11:33AM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

I hope these people ROT in the hell for they created by their own hands!!!

7:31PM PDT on Apr 15, 2012

So humans have shown they can destroy nearly every species on Earth (including our own). What more do some people need to "prove their superiority over" animals who cannot compete against the reckless use of technology? The dangers of lead have been well known for decades, banning it from polluting the environment and wildlife is a no-brainer!

8:29PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

Georgia: EPA = Environmental Protection Agency

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