WASHINGTON— More than 60 organizations in 27 states are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to ban toxic lead in bullets and shotgun pellets used for hunting and in fishing lures and sinkers. The Center for Biological Diversity, American Bird Conservancy and a coalition of conservation, hunting and veterinary groups petitioned EPA in early August for the ban on lead, a substance that needlessly kills and harms millions of wild birds and other animals every year and endangers public health. Since the petition was filed, the petitioners and the Bird Conservation Alliance have engaged other groups representing birders, hunters, zoologists, scientists, American Indians, physicians, veterinarians and public employees that have signed on in support.
“It’s encouraging to see so many types of organizations unite for the common goal of ending lead poisoning of wildlife in this country,” said the Center’s Jeff Miller.
Major efforts to control lead in paint, gasoline and other products have reduced lead in the environment, but lead from hunting and fishing is still a widespread wildlife killer, harming bald eagles, trumpeter swans, endangered California condors and others.
The petition referenced nearly 500 peer-reviewed scientific papers on the poisoning risk to wildlife from spent lead ammunition and fishing tackle. While the EPA is still considering the request for regulation of lead fishing tackle, it has indicated it will deny the portion of the petition regarding lead ammunition, claiming it lacks authority to regulate ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act. But the plain language of the Act, as well as Senate and House reports on its legislative history and intent, clearly state that the EPA has the authority to regulate such hazardous chemical components of ammunition as lead bullets and shot.
“The unnecessary poisoning of eagles, condors, swans, loons and other wildlife is a national tragedy, especially given what we know about how toxic lead is to wildlife. Extensive science links lead poisoning in wildlife to spent ammunition and fishing weights. Now that there are safe and available alternatives for these outdoor sports, there’s no good reason for this poisoning to continue,” said Miller. “Getting the lead out for wildlife is in line with traditional American conservation, hunting and fishing values.”
Lead is an extremely toxic substance, dangerous to people and animals even at low levels. Exposure can cause death or severe health effects, including reduced reproduction, inhibition of growth and neurological damage. Animals are poisoned when they scavenge on carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments or ingest spent lead-shot pellets or lost fishing weights, mistaking them for food or grit. Animals that survive lead poisoning can still suffer for years from its debilitating effects. An estimated 10 to 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning in the United States.