Lawsuit Filed Over EPA Refusal to Address Lead Poisoning of Wildlife

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Anthony Prieto, Project Gutpile, (805) 729-5455
Karen Schambach, PEER, (530) 333-2545

Lawsuit Filed Over EPA Refusal to Address Lead Poisoning of Wildlife

Suit Seeks to Prevent Annual Deaths of Millions of Wild Birds, Wildlife From Toxic Lead in Ammunition, Fishing Gear

WASHINGTON - Conservation and hunting groups today sued the 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 on the dangers of lead poisoning in the wild, which kills millions
of birds each year and also endangers 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 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 Indian groups, physicians and public employees.

“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 our fish and wildlife,” said Karen
Schambach of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
“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.”

For
more information, read about the Center’s
Get the Lead Out campaign.
Read
Frequently Asked Questions about
the lead ban petition.
View
photo images and video of
wildlife poisoned by lead ammunition and sinkers.

The Center for
Biological Diversity (www.biologicaldiversity.org) is a national, nonprofit
conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online
activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild
places.

Project
Gutpile is an educational organization comprised of hunters that provides
resources for lead-free hunters and anglers. Project Gutpile has been
promoting non-lead ammunition and raising lead awareness in the hunting
community since 2002.

Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a 10,000 member
national alliance of local, state and federal resource professionals
working to protect the environment. PEER members include government
scientists, land managers, environmental law enforcement agents, field
specialists, and other resource professionals committed to responsible
management of America’s
public resources.

Background
Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and
wildlife even at low levels. Exposure can cause a range of health effects,
from acute poisoning and death to long-term problems such as reduced
reproduction, inhibition of growth, and damage to neurological development.
Animals are poisoned when they scavenge on carcasses shot and contaminated
with lead bullet fragments or pick up and eat spent lead shot pellets or
lost fishing weights, mistaking them for food or grit. Animals can die a
painful death from lead poisoning or suffer for years from its debilitating
effects.

Lead
ammunition also poses human-health risks since lead bullets explode and
break into minute particles in shot game and can spread throughout meat
that humans eat. Studies using radiographs show that numerous
imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead can contaminate meat up to a
foot and a half away from the bullet track, causing a greater health risk
to people consuming lead-shot game than previously thought. A recent study
found that up to 87 percent of cooked game killed by lead ammunition can
contain unsafe levels of lead. Some state health agencies have had to
recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of lead contamination
from bullet fragments. Nearly 10 million hunters, their families and
low-income beneficiaries of venison donations may be at risk, as well as
the estimated 1 million or more people who manufacture lead fishing weights
in their homes, leading to inhalation of lead dust and fumes.

There
are now numerous commercially available, nontoxic alternatives to lead
rifle bullets, shotgun pellets and fishing weights. Nontoxic steel, copper
and alloy bullets and non-lead fishing tackle are readily available in all
50 states. More than a dozen manufacturers of bullets now market many
varieties of non-lead, nontoxic bullets and shot. The California Department
of Fish and Game has certified
nontoxic ammunition from 24
manufacturers
for hunting big-game and
non-game species in the range of the California condor. The Arizona Game
and Fish Department publishes a
list of non-lead rifle
ammunition available
for big-game hunters, including
120 bullets in various calibers produced by 13 ammunition manufacturers, as
well as seven manufacturers who provide custom-loaded nonlead rifle
ammunition. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service has approved 12
nontoxic shot types for
hunting waterfowl. At least 10 alternatives to lead fishing weights are now
available made from non-poisonous materials such as tin, bismuth, steel,
ceramics and recycled glass.

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Share This Article

More in: