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

Millions of birds and other animals die from lead hunting ammunition each year — not from being shot but from eating fragments of ammunition left behind by hunters. It’s a wildlife epidemic that’s entirely preventable. That’s why on Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity pulled together more than 140 other groups to petition the Environmental Protection Agency to finally get the lead out of hunting ammunition in favor of readily available, nontoxic alternatives.

“The unnecessary poisoning of eagles, condors and other wildlife is a national tragedy that the EPA can easily put an end to,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are safe, available alternatives to lead ammo for all hunting and shooting sports, so there’s no reason for this poisoning to go on. Getting the lead out for wildlife is in line with traditional American conservation, hunting and fishing values.”

Each year, 3,000 tons of lead are shot into the environment by hunters because the EPA has refused to regulate toxic lead hunting ammunition. That lead poisons bald eagles, severely endangered condors and majestic trumpeter swans, which die painful deaths. Hunting with lead ammo also risks the health of humans (especially children) when they ingest tiny lead fragments in shot game.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are many commercially available alternatives to lead rifle bullets and shotgun pellets. More than a dozen manufacturers market hundreds of varieties and calibers of nonlead bullets and shot made of steel, copper and alloys of other metals, with satisfactory to superior ballistics. Nonlead bullets are readily available in all 50 states. Hunters in states and areas that already have lead restrictions or have banned lead have made successful transitions to hunting with nontoxic bullets.

“We wisely removed lead from gasoline and paint because of the dangers of lead poisoning, and now it’s time to do the same for hunting ammunition. Future generations will thank us,” Miller said.

There is simply no excuse to use toxic lead for hunting. Please sign the group’s petition today, and share it with your network on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information, read about the Center’s Get the Lead Out campaign. Photos and videos are also available here.

Find out more about the dangers of lead >>

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


Amy E.
Amy E5 years ago


Christine Stewart
Christine S5 years ago

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.

Stephen Day
Steve Day5 years ago

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.

Stephen Day
Steve Day5 years ago

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.

Linda Jarsky
Linda Jarsky5 years ago

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

Ellen Emerson
Ellen Emerson5 years ago

Signed and shared

Valentina R.
Valentina R5 years ago


Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton5 years ago

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

Anita D.
Anita D5 years ago

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!

Lois E.
Lois E5 years ago

Georgia: EPA = Environmental Protection Agency