Contact: Karen Schambach [PEER] (530)333-2545; Kate Hornyan [PEER] (202) 265-7337; Robert Johns [American Bird Conservancy] (202) 234-7181, ext. 210; Jeff Miller [Center for Biological Diversity] (510) 499-9185
Legal Move to Outlaw Lead-Based Ammo & Fishing Tackle
Lead Poisoning Kills Millions of Wild Birds and Poses Human Health Risk
Washington, DC — A coalition of conservation, hunting, veterinary, and food safety groups today filed a formal petition with the Environmental Protection Agency requesting a ban on the use of toxic lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle. Although major efforts to reduce lead exposure for people have significantly reduced the amount of lead put into the environment, toxic lead is still a widespread killer in the wild, harming Bald Eagles, Trumpeter Swans, endangered California Condors, and other wildlife.
An estimated 10 to 20 million birds and other animals die from lead poisoning in the United States each year, from scavenging on animals shot and contaminated with lead bullet fragments, or picking up and ingesting spent lead shot pellets or lost fishing weights, mistaking them for food or grit. Some animals die a painful death from lead poisoning while others suffer for years from its debilitating effects.
“With non-toxic alternatives readily available, eliminating lead where we can easily do so is a no-brainer; at least it should be,” stated Karen Schambach, the California Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), noting that last year the National Park Service announced and then apparently abandoned a ban on lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle in national parks. “If the National Park Service will not stand up to protect park resources, then EPA will have to do the job.”
PEER joins the American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Association of Avian Veterinarians, Center for Food Safety, and the hunters’ group Project Gutpile in asking for the ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which regulates dangerous chemicals in the United States. In the United States, 3,000 tons of lead are shot into the environment by hunting every year, another 80,000 tons are released at shooting ranges, and 4,000 tons are lost in ponds and streams as fishing lures and sinkers.
“It’s long past time do something about this deadly – and preventable – epidemic of lead poisoning in the wild,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Over the last several decades, we have wisely taken steps to get lead out of gasoline, paint, water pipes, and other sources dangerous to people. Now it’s time to get the lead out of hunting and fishing sports to save wildlife from needless poisoning.”
The petition references hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies that starkly illustrate the widespread dangers from lead ammunition and fishing tackle. 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.
“The science on this issue is massive in breadth and unimpeachable in its integrity,” added George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy. “Hundreds of studies show continued lead poisoning of large numbers of birds and other animals, and this petition is a prudent step to safeguard wildlife and reduce unacceptable human health risks.”
Lead ammunition also poses health risks to people. Lead bullets explode and fragment 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 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. A recent study found that up to 87 percent of cooked game killed by lead ammunition can contain unsafe levels of lead. State health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of lead contamination from lead bullet fragments. Nearly 10 million hunters, their families, and low-income beneficiaries of venison donations may be at risk.