Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Groups Ask EPA to Get the Lead out of Hunting Ammunition

Center for Biological Diversity

One hundred organizations in 35 states on March 13 formally petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate toxic lead in hunting ammunition to protect public health and prevent the widespread poisoning of eagles, California condors and other wildlife. Up to 20 million birds die each year from lead poisoning after consuming spent lead shot and bullet fragments left in the wild from hunting.

“The unnecessary poisoning of eagles, condors and other wildlife is a national tragedy that the EPA can easily put an end to,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are safe, available alternatives to lead ammo for all hunting and shooting sports, so there’s no reason for this poisoning to go on. Getting the lead out for wildlife is in line with traditional American conservation, hunting and fishing values.”

The petition follows the EPA’s refusal in 2010 to review a petition asking for a ban on lead bullets, shotgun pellets and fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and seeks federal rules requiring use of nontoxic bullets and shot for hunting and shooting sports. It was filed by groups representing conservationists, birders, hunters, zoologists, scientists, American Indians, wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians.

In the U.S., 3,000 tons of lead are shot into the environment by hunters every year, while another 80,000 tons are released at shooting ranges. Birds and animals are poisoned when they scavenge on carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments or ingest spent lead-shot pellets, which can cover popular hunting grounds at high densities.

Spent lead from hunting is a widespread killer of bald and golden eagles, trumpeter swans, endangered California condors and more than 75 other species. Nearly 500 scientific papers have documented the dangers to wildlife from lead exposure.

“It’s encouraging to see so many groups unite to end lead poisoning of wildlife,” said Miller. “This isn’t about hunting—it’s about switching to nontoxic materials to stop preventable lead poisoning. Getting the lead out of hunting ammunition will reduce hunters’ lead exposure too, as well as the health risks to anyone eating shot game.”

There are many commercially available alternatives to lead rifle bullets, shotgun pellets, fishing weights and lures. More than a dozen manufacturers market hundreds of varieties and calibers of nonlead bullets and shot made of steel, copper and alloys of other metals, with satisfactory to superior ballistics. Nonlead bullets and fishing tackle are readily available in all 50 states. Hunters and anglers in states and areas that have lead restrictions or have already banned lead have made successful transitions to hunting with nontoxic bullets and fishing with nontoxic tackle.

“We wisely removed lead from gasoline and paint because of the dangers of lead poisoning, and now it’s time to do the same for hunting ammunition. Future generations will thank us,” Miller said.

For more information, read about the Center’s Get the Lead Out campaign. Media-ready photos and videos are also available here.

Background

Lead has been known to be highly toxic for more than 2,000 years. Its use in water pipes, cosmetics, pottery and food is suspected to have been a contributing factor in the collapse of the Roman Empire. It is dangerous even at low levels; exposure can cause death or severe health effects, from acute, paralytic poisoning and seizures to subtle, long-term mental impairment, miscarriage, neurological damage, impotence or impaired reproduction, and growth inhibition. There may be no safe level of lead for fetuses and the young. In recent decades the federal government has implemented regulations to reduce human lead exposure in drinking water, batteries, paint, gasoline, toys, toxic dumps, wheel balancing weights and shooting ranges.

At least 75 wild bird species are poisoned by spent lead ammunition, including bald eagles, golden eagles, ravens and California condors. Despite being banned in 1992 for hunting waterfowl, spent lead shotgun pellets continue to be frequently ingested by swans, cranes, ducks, geese, loons and other waterfowl. Many birds also consume lead-based fishing tackle lost in lakes and rivers, often with deadly consequences.

Lead ammunition also poses health risks to people when bullets fragment in shot game and spread throughout the 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. State health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of lead contamination. Nearly 10 million hunters, their families and low-income beneficiaries of venison donations may be at risk.

In denying the 2010 lead ban petition, the EPA claimed it lacks authority to regulate toxic lead bullets and shot under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which controls manufacture, processing and distribution of dangerous chemicals in the U.S., including lead. Yet congressional documents and the language of the act explicitly contradict the agency’s claim. The House report on the history and intent of the act states it “does not exclude from regulation under the bill chemical components of ammunition which could be hazardous because of their chemical properties.” Petitioning organizations sued the EPA over the improper petition denial, but hit a procedural snag and the lawsuit was dismissed in September 2011. The EPA never evaluated lead ammunition risks to wildlife and human health, and the court never ruled on the merits of the petition or lawsuit.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Fino Menezes

Everyone adores dolphins. Intelligent, inquisitive and playful, these special creatures have captivated humans since the dawn of time. But dolphins didn't get to where they are by accident — they needed to develop some pretty amazing superpowers to cope with their environment.

Read More Show Less
Protesters face off against security during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

In just two weeks, three states have passed laws criminalizing protests against fossil fuel infrastructure.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen to White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx speak in the Rose Garden for the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has bowed to the advice of public health experts and extended social distancing measures designed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus till at least April 30.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Charli Shield

At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.

Read More Show Less
Pie Ranch in San Mateo, California, is a highly diverse farm that has both organic and food justice certification. Katie Greaney

By Elizabeth Henderson

Farmworkers, farmers and their organizations around the country have been singing the same tune for years on the urgent need for immigration reform. That harmony turns to discord as soon as you get down to details on how to get it done, what to include and what compromises you are willing to make. Case in point: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165. The Senate received the bill the next day and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains. Two hundred and fifty agriculture and labor groups signed on to the United Farm Workers' (UFW) call for support for H.R. 5038. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez rejoiced:

Read More Show Less