EPA Sued over Its Refusal to Regulate Lead-Based Ammo

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Karen Schambach, [PEER] (530) 333-2545;
Kirsten Stade [PEER] (202) 265-7337;
Jeff Miller [Center for Biological Diversity] (510) 499-9185;
Anthony Prieto [Project Gutpile] (805) 729-5455 

EPA Sued over Its Refusal to Regulate Lead-Based Ammo

Lawsuit Targets Lead Poisoning of Millions of Wildlife from Lead Bullets & Tackle

WASHINGTON - Conservation and hunting groups today sued
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to regulate toxic
lead that frequently poisons and kills eagles, swans, cranes, loons,
endangered California condors and other wildlife throughout the country.
The EPA recently denied a formal petition to ban lead in fishing tackle
and hunting ammunition despite long-established science showing both
the dangers of lead poisoning in the wild and threats to public health.

“The EPA has the ability to protect America’s wildlife from ongoing
preventable lead poisoning, but continues to shirk its responsibility,”
said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological
Diversity. “The EPA’s failure to act is astonishing given the mountain
of scientific evidence about the dangers of lead to wildlife. There are
already safe and available alternatives to lead products for hunting and
fishing, and the EPA can phase in a changeover to nontoxic materials,
so there’s no reason to perpetuate the epidemic of lead poisoning of
wildlife.”

In August, a coalition of groups formally petitioned the EPA to ban lead
in bullets and shot for hunting and in fishing tackle under the Toxic
Substances Control Act. The petition referenced nearly 500 peer-reviewed
scientific papers illustrating the widespread dangers of lead poisoning
to scavengers that eat lead ammunition fragments in carcasses, and to
waterfowl that ingest spent lead shot or lost lead fishing sinkers. The
groups filing the lawsuit today are the Center for Biological Diversity,
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Project
Gutpile, a hunters’ organization. Since the original petition was filed,
more than 70 organizations in 27 states have voiced support for the
lead ban, including those representing veterinarians, birders, hunters,
zoologists, scientists, American Indians and physicians.

“Having hunted in California for 20 years I have seen firsthand lead
poisoning impacts to wildlife from toxicity through lead ammunition,”
said Anthony Prieto, a hunter and cofounder of Project Gutpile, a
hunters’ group that provides educational resources for lead-free hunters
and anglers. “Although many more sportsmen are now getting the lead
out, the EPA must take action to ensure we have a truly lead-free
environment. It’s time to make a change to non-lead for ourselves and
for future generations to enjoy hunting and fishing with a conscience.”

“Over the past several decades Americans chose to get toxic lead out of
our gasoline, paint, water pipes and other sources that were poisoning
people. Now it’s time to remove unnecessary lead from hunting and
fishing sports that is needlessly poisoning fish and wildlife,” said
Karen Schambach of PEER. “Today’s action is a step to safeguard wildlife
and reduce human health risks posed by lead.”

The EPA denied the portion of the petition dealing with regulation of
lead ammunition based on an incorrect claim that the agency lacks the
authority to regulate toxic lead in ammunition. The EPA asserted that
shells and cartridges are excluded from the definition of “chemical
substances” in the Act. That claim is contradicted by the legislative
history of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which provides clear and
specific authority to regulate hazardous chemical components of
ammunition such as lead.
Earlier this month the EPA also issued a final determination denying the
portion of the petition on fishing sinkers, even though the agency
itself had proposed banning certain lead fishing weights in 1994.

“The EPA has known for years it has the authority to regulate lead,”
said Miller. “Lead shot was eliminated in 1991 by federal regulation to
address widespread lead poisoning of ducks and secondary poisoning of
bald eagles. And in 1994, the EPA even proposed banning lead fishing
weights that were being eaten by waterfowl.”

Hunters and anglers in states that have restricted or banned lead
shotgun ammunition or lead fishing gear have already made successful
transitions to nontoxic alternatives, and fishing and hunting in those
areas remains active. Alternatives continue to be developed, including
the U.S. military’s transition toward bullets made of non-lead
materials.

“This is clearly not an anti-hunting initiative, it is about using less
toxic materials for the sake of wildlife and our human health,” said
Prieto. “When I hunt, I want to make sure I kill only my target animal,
and I want to use the least toxic ammunition possible since I will be
feeding the game to my family.”

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Peruse the complaint

View photos of lead poisoned wildlife

Learn more about the dangers of lead ammo and alternatives to it

Read the petition EPA rejected

 Look at the EPA rejection letter

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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