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Scientists and Health Experts: It's Time to Phase Out Lead Hunting Ammunition
'Overwhelming Scientific Evidence' of Toxic Dangers Posed to People, Wildlife
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - April 9 - Lead hunting ammunition poses a serious danger to people and wildlife and ought to be phased out, according to a new statement from 30 scientists, doctors and public-health experts from Harvard, Cornell, Rutgers and other universities around the country. The “consensus statement of scientists” on the hazards of lead ammunition was released in an online University of California publication.
“Based on overwhelming evidence for the toxic effects of lead in humans and wildlife, even at very low exposure levels, convincing data that the discharge of lead-based ammunition into the environment poses significant risks of lead exposure to humans and wildlife, and the availability of non-lead alternative products for hunting, we support reducing and eventually eliminating the introduction of lead into the environment from lead-based ammunition,” the statement reads.
The scientists note that lead ammunition is likely the biggest, largely unregulated source of lead knowingly discharged into the environment in the United States, and that over the past 50 years, lead has been significantly reduced or eliminated in other sources, such as gasoline and paint.
The letter comes as the California state legislature is considering a bill (Assembly Bill 711) that would ban lead in hunting ammunition throughout the state. A coalition of 268 organizations from 40 states has also petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency for nationwide regulations ending the use of toxic lead ammunition.
The scientists cite peer-reviewed studies showing that:
• Discharge of lead-based ammunition and subsequent accumulation of spent lead in the environment poses significant health risks to humans and wildlife;
• Using lead ammunition poses risks of elevated lead exposure to gun users;
• Lead bullet fragments are easily ingested by scavenging animals or incorporated into processed game meat for human consumption;
• Lead ammunition fragments are a significant source of lead exposure in humans that ingest wild game;
• Lead poisoning from ingestion of ammunition fragments poses a serious and significant threat to many species of California wildlife.
The California legislature is considering a bill introduced by Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) that would ban lead ammunition for all hunting throughout the state (A.B. 711). The bill will be heard April 16 by the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife.
A national poll released last month found that 57 percent of Americans support requiring the use of nontoxic bullets for hunting. The poll, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity, also found that more Americans support a ban on lead ammunition than oppose it and that a majority of voters think Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats to ban lead in ammunition.
A recent study debunks claims that price and availability of nonlead ammunition could preclude switching to nontoxic rounds for hunting. In fact, researchers found no major difference in the retail price of equivalent lead-free and lead-core ammunition for most popular calibers. There are now numerous commercially available, nontoxic alternatives to lead rifle bullets and shotgun pellets, with superior ballistics, accuracy and safety.
Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife even at low levels. Lead 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. Millions of nontarget birds and other wildlife are poisoned each year from scavenging carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments or from ingesting spent lead-shot pellets, mistaking them for food or grit. Spent ammunition causes lead poisoning in 130 species of birds and animals. Nearly 500 scientific papers document the dangers to wildlife from this lead exposure. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calculates that despite the federal ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting, more than 14,000 tons of toxic lead shot is deposited in the environment each year in the United States by upland bird hunting alone.
Studies using radiographs show that lead ammunition leaves fragments and numerous imperceptible, dust-sized particles that contaminate game meat far from a bullet track, causing significant health risks to people eating wild game. Some state health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of dangerous lead contamination from bullet fragments.
Read more about the Center for Biological Diversity’s Get the Lead Out campaign.