Scientist Tells the Truth About Lead Ammunition at Association of Fish and Wildlife Agency’s Annual Meeting

on . Posted in California Fish and Game Commission, Faulty Science, Latest News

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina—After cancer researcher Dr. Don Saba gave his presentation to the California Fish and Game Commission on August 8, 2012, the Commission rejected a proposed expansion of the ban on the use of lead ammunition in the condor range within California, based in part on his comments.

Dr. Saba is a chemist, a cancer drug researcher, and a development consultant to the pharmaceutical industry. He is intimately familiar with how the body reacts to lead, and how treatment for lead poisoning can help, or hurt, wildlife including condors.

The information Dr. Saba presented to the Fish & Game Commission on the topic hit a chord, and Dr. Saba was asked to present his findings to the lead working group at the annual meeting of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) on September 11, 2012. AFWA represents all fifty states’ fish and wildlife agencies. Its mission is to advance sound, science-based management and conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitat in the public’s best interest.

Dr. Saba’s AFWA presentation was a game-changer in the debate about the cause of lead poisoning in condors and other wildlife. Dr. Saba presented evidence at the AFWA meeting that showed that condor blood-lead levels have not only remained static, but actually slightly increased after California’s AB 821 lead ban was implemented, despite the admission by the California Fish & Game Department that 99% of all hunters in the condor range are complying with the lead ammunition ban. During his presentation to AFWA, Dr. Saba used his specialized knowledge to show that the science cited by lead ban proponents to blame lead ammunition for lead poisons in condors is flawed.

Lead ammunition ban proponents across the nation rely on UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz publications to support their position that lead ammunition is poisoning the California condor and other wildlife. UC Davis researchers, Terra R. Kelly and Christine K. Johnson published two studies that purported to show that golden eagles and turkey vultures have a significantly higher blood-lead level during hunting season in comparison to the off-season, and that lead exposure in both species declined significantly after the implementation of California’s AB 821 lead ammunition ban in the condor range. has obtained and analyzed tens of thousands of pages of public records and data that show how the UC Davis studies are scientifically unsound.

Lead ban proponents also rely on a paper by UC Santa Cruz researchers Myra Finkelstein and Donald Smith. They recently published a paper that admitted that the AB 821 ban on hunters’ lead ammunition in the condor range has had no effect on reducing condor blood-lead levels. But, they nonetheless insist that condor lead exposure and poisoning is due to hunters’ lead ammunition. The UC Santa Cruz researchers’ latest publication purported to show that isotopic ratios of lead found in the blood of condors matched the lead isotopic ratios of lead found in ammunition. But the researchers used the discredited isotopic compositional analysis to claim that the isotopic ratios of lead from the captive condors fall within background range of lead in the California environment, while free-flying condors had lead isotopic ratios that more closely matched hunters’ lead ammunition. Dr. Saba and Dr. Erik Randich have previously shown that this isotopic ratio method is unsound, and these conclusions are unfounded. analyzed public records and data, and peer-reviewed papers, including the UC authors’ own publications, and showed that the most recent paper was based on data that was “cherry picked” to reach their preconceived conclusions. Indeed, the researchers’ own conclusions in earlier publications clearly contradicted their most recent conclusions regarding the isotopic ratio range for lead in ammunition and paint.

Access to data and disseminating complete information is crucial in the Hunt for Truth. To combat the misguided efforts by environmental activists and researchers seeking to ban the use of lead ammunition for hunting and shooting sports over the last several years, has collected tens of thousands of documents via public records act requests pertaining to the use of lead ammunition. These documents raise serious doubts about the veracity of claims that lead ammunition is poisoning California condors, wildlife, or humans. has used these documents to rebut the faulty science being used to implement various lead ammunition bans across the country.

These efforts are critical in defending the status quo for hunters and recreational shooters nationwide and have resulted in the rejection of several proposed and ill-conceived bans throughout the United States.

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