Two scientific papers concerning lead ammunition and poisoning have recently been published by researchers in England, and are receiving quite a bit of attention overseas. The first, by Green and Pain (2012), documents the potential health risks to families consuming gamebird meat taken with lead shot. Their results found the following:

  1. “Consumption of 0.4-0.7 gamebird meals per week may be associated with a 1 point decrease in the IQ of children.
  2. Consumption of 2.8-4.6 gamebird meals per week may be associated with a 1% increase in the prevalence of spontaneous abortion in pregnant women.
  3. Consumption of 1.2-1.9 or 4.0-6.5 gamebird meals per week (depending on the statistical model) may be associated with a 10% increased prevalence of chronic kidney disease in adults.
  4. Consumption of 3.2-5.2 gamebird meals per week may be associated with a 1% increase in the systolic blood pressure in adults.”

Abstract from Green and Pain's (2012) paper in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.

These results are based on the “potential health risks” of consuming game meat containing lead ammunition, that is, the study did not actually feed people game meat containing lead ammunition. This is one of the many issues lead-ammuntion proponents have with studies such as this concerning lead poisoning in humans. We know lead is bad for us, but we can’t actually test this by feeding people meat containing lead and seeing if it poisons them. That would be unethical. What we can show is the “potential” detrimental impacts of lead, and let people use their common sense about consuming game meat containing lead.

The second paper, by Newth et al (2012), documents the continued poisoning of wild waterbirds from lead gunshot, even though legislation in the UK has been enacted to restrict its use. Elevated lead levels were found in 34% of waterbirds tested during the 2010/2011 winter in Britain! Furthermore, no difference was found in the proportion of birds dying from lead poisoning in England after the introduction of legislation restricting the use of lead ammo.

Abstract from Newth et al (2012) paper in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.

This issue again highlights the need for improved outreach and educational awareness concerning the lead issue. As we have seen with the California condor in California, throwing a lead ban in the face of hunters with no education, and no way of actually enforcing the ban, does nothing to limit the exposure of wildlife populations to lead poisoning. England is now experiencing this same problem. We need to education hunters first, about lead ammunition’s harmful impacts on wildlife and human populations, before they can understand why making a switch to non-lead ammo is important for wildlife and their families. This is exactly what Wild Lens is striving to achieve with our documentary concerning the California condor and lead poisoning: “Scavenger Hunt: An Unlikely Union.”

Fragmentation of a lead rifle bullet. Photo by Chris Parish.


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