Minneapolis, MN – A recent article in the Minnesota Daily reported that University of Minnesota researchers from the School of Public Health and the University Raptor Center are pushing for a state-wide ban on the use of traditional lead ammunition for hunting in Minnesota. Using scare tactics straight from the recent California lead ammunition ban campaign (AB 711), proponents of a lead ammo ban are again shamefully claiming that hunters and their families put their own health at risk by consuming wild game taken with lead bullets.
It’s not true. There is no valid evidence of clinical lead poisoning in hunters or their families, even those who frequently consume wild game meat harvested with lead ammunition.
All doctors are required to report cases of lead poisoning to their state health agencies and to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If human health risks from hunters’ lead ammunition were as significant a concern as anti-lead ammunition and pro-animal rights groups such as the Humane Society of the United States, Audubon and the Center for Biological Diversity claim, there would be multiple studies documenting cases of clinical lead poisoning. But, no human lead poisoning cases have been linked to consuming wild game meat.
Indeed, eating game meat harvested with lead ammunition has not been linked to lead poisoning in humans and there is no evidence or reports of human illnesses. These fact are supported by many state agencies, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.
To support their claims about human health risks, anti-hunting groups commonly reference a CDC study conducted on North Dakota hunters and their families, where a significant portion of their diet consisted of wild game meat taken with lead ammunition. Though the study reported slightly higher blood-lead levels for hunters compared to non-hunters (1.27 and 0.84 μg/dL, respectively), the (0.30 μg/dL) difference is nearly imperceptible and statistically insignificant. Perhaps more importantly, the study found that the average blood-lead level reported for the hunters (1.27 μg/dL) is actually lower than the national average for all Americans (1.5 – 2.2 μg/dL)! This finding shows that consuming wild game meat taken with lead ammunition does not pose a human health risk — unless just living in America itself is also considered a human health risk.
What is happening in Minnesota is typical. In the states where anti-hunting groups see an opportunity to make a big push to ban lead ammunition for all hunting, the campaign message quickly turns to the scare tactics about alleged human health risks. For example, in Virginia an ongoing push to ban lead ammunition for hunting is based on alleged threats to the bald eagle. The Virginia Department of Health, however, has instead made numerous presentations to make the unfounded human health risk argument.
The Virginia presentation uses data from the CDC study in North Dakota, but again, that data does not support the anti-hunting groups’ claim that consuming wild game taken with lead ammunition causes human health problems. Further, the Virginia presentation does not provide any evidence of lead ammunition causing health problems in humans. In fact, the presentation addresses issues involving “compounded” forms of lead (e.g. gasoline, paint and pesticides), which is a very different form of lead posing very different problems and requiring a very different scientific evaluation. Compounded lead, while highly toxic, is not the same form of metallic lead used in ammunition. Metallic lead is much less bio-available, and highly unlikely to cause lead poisoning.
A recent study by Christer Holmgren (Swedish Environmental Agency Consultant) and Professor Ulf Qvarfort (Deputy Research Director, Swedish Defense Research Agency) shows that only 0.2% of any potentially ingested metallic lead fragments would ever actually be absorbed by the human body. This trace level of lead exposure is significantly lower than toxic levels for humans. Holmgren and Qvarfort demonstrate that a person consuming wild game meat taken with lead ammunition would be exposed to only 6% of the limit established by the European Food Safety Agency for RP2 disease risks.
The bottom line, the claim that humans are getting lead poisoning from consuming lead ammunition in wild game meat is not substantiated by the science. Instead, the literature shows that hunters in the CDC study actually had a lower average blood-lead level than the average American. The Minnesota Daily’s reporting is a sloppy and shameful attempt to frighten hunters with a methodically spun PR campaign to ban lead ammunition. It is yet another attempt by the anti-lead ammunition groups to frighten and mislead hunters, legislators, regulators and the general public to support their lead ammunition ban agenda, this time in Minnesota.
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