Environmental groups filed a petition today that puts ammunition under fire for its use of lead, a key ingredient in fishing tackle and bullets.
The Center for Biological Diversity, the American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Avian Veterinarians, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Project Gut Pile asked the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
“Over the past several decades we’ve wisely taken steps to get lead out of our gasoline, paint, water pipes and other sources that are dangerous to people,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity in a press release. “Now it’s time to get the lead out of hunting and fishing sports to save wildlife from needless poisoning.”
The petition follows scientific evidence pointing to the effects of chronic lead poisoning in wildlife. Its toxicity has long been recognized in humans and has been widely banned from uses leading to human exposure. However, it continues to be used in bullets, pellets and fishing tackle.
In recent years, scientists have begun to study the effects of longterm lead poisoning on birds and wildlife. According to the press release, these studies conclude that lead toxicity in birds leads to “appetite loss, anemia, anorexia, reproductive or neurological impairment, immune suppression, weakness and susceptibility to predation and starvation.”
In hunting, lead toxicity calls into question the health of animals that scavenge carcasses as well as the people who consume the meat of game animals.
“The science on this issue is massive in breadth and unimpeachable in its integrity,” said George Fenwick, the president of the American Bird Conservancy.
Even so, the groups will have trouble convincing some sportsman and ammunition manufacturers that banning lead is the way to go. Richard Patterson of the Sports Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute called the petition “inflammatory, throw-it-against-the-wall material” in an interview with the New York Times.
But a compromise is possible, says Anthony Prieto, the co-founder of Project Gutpile, a California group that aims to educate fellow hunters about the dangers of lead in wildlife. “Compliance with [California’s] recent state nonlead ammunition regulation has been simple. I still get to hunt, there is no toxic impact on wildlife or my health, and copper bullets shoot better.”