Lead is a non-threshold poison. There is no safe level.
Over 44,000 tonnes of lead fishing weights and ammunition, mainly gunshot, are released into the European environment every year, creating an ever-increasing toxic legacy. Over decades gunshot pellets and bullet fragments can degrade and contaminate soils and crops. In areas of high deposition of ammunition e.g. at shooting ranges, lead can be mobilised from the site and leach into surface waters and contaminate waterways exposing fish and other species to lead’s toxic effects.
Gunshot pellets are attractive to birds that eat seeds or grit for digesting their food. Lead fishing weights are consumed by both grain- and fish-eating birds. Over one million birds die every year in Europe from the resultant lead poisoning.
Predators and scavengers are exposed to poisoned birds and ammunition fragments in the flesh of hunted animals, so the poisoning moves further up the food chain.
Lead affects all the major body systems – affected animals may show signs of weakness, inability to fly and leg paralysis. Therefore, untold numbers more die as a result of lead affecting their ability to find food or evade predators. Population level impacts are inevitable for some including some of Europe’s most threatened species.
For people eating game meat shot with lead, the fragments and particles of lead create levels of the toxin which would never be allowed in other meats. Food safety agencies warn of the effects to children and pregnant women primarily due to lead’s neurotoxic effects, and warn of the dangers of frequent consumption of game meat with impacts including kidney disease and increased blood pressure.
Fishers who caste their own weights at home can expose themselves and their families to highly toxic lead fumes.
Domestic animals grazing on land contaminated by lead ammunition from both sports shooting or hunting can result in loss of animals, economic impacts to farmers and food safety issues. Cases include serious incidents in poultry and domestic ducks and deaths of cattle.
The science is undeniable.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence of the toxic effects of lead ammunition on our health. Dozens of European and other scientists, medics and veterinary health professionals have written open letters and consensus statements on this.
Hunters and fishers do not need to stop what they are doing, they just need to change their ammunition and fishing weights.