Despite rising worries about lead exposure from wild animals, hunters and their families continue to use lead bullets because they are uninformed of the hazards or are highly mistrustful of them. The presence of lead in hunted meat has the potential to harm the health of millions of people in the United States. Lead bullets can release metal fragments into the game, which can be ingested by humans through eating uncooked meat or animal products such as fur, milk, eggs, and brain tissue.
People who eat lead-contaminated food may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Lead may also be released into the environment through trash bins or soil that contains abandoned ammunition. This environmental lead is dangerous for children who play in these areas or consume plant products such as spinach that have been grown in contaminated soil.
The best defense against lead poisoning is to avoid consuming any animal product that has been exposed to lead. This includes game killed with lead bullets. Hunters should also take special care not to contaminate carcasses with lead before cleaning them out of concern for lead exposure to themselves and their family members. Cleaning firearms using chemicals such as muriatic acid or gas guns may release small particles containing lead into the air, which could be inhaled.
It is important for hunters to understand the dangers of lead exposure not only for themselves but for the community at large.
Lead poisoning has been known for a long time, and no safe absorption threshold for humans has been determined. Food consumption among consumers should thus be maintained as low as feasible. Due to the usage of lead ammunition for hunting, game meat may have higher amounts of lead. However, since lead is also found in other materials used for hunting (such as bullets or traps), it cannot be assumed that game meat is necessarily contaminated with lead.
The best way to avoid eating lead is not to consume game meat. Other sources of lead exposure include old buildings and vehicles. Although lead paint is now banned, older buildings may still have lead-based paint.
Children and adults who eat game meat often exceed recommended limits for lead intake. Lead can cause brain damage, behavior problems, learning difficulties, and death. Even at very low levels of exposure, lead can be harmful to health.
To reduce your exposure to lead, do not eat any part of the animal except the meat allowed by law to be sold without special labeling. This is usually only muscle meat from hunted animals. Brain, bone, liver, and fat contain more hazardous substances than muscle, and should not be eaten. Check the laws of your country about lead in food; some countries limit lead in meat products, while others don't require testing.
Despite scientific evidence, eating lead-contaminated meat is routinely overlooked, despite the fact that breathing airborne lead from gun smoke created by a weapon is a recognized risk factor for lead exposure. Several investigations have revealed a direct correlation between animals harvested using lead ammunition and blood lead elevations. Lead bullets can remain functional after being shot into animal flesh and will continue to release lead into the environment.
Here are some examples of lead-based ammunition:.38 Special +P,.357 Magnum, 9mm Luger,.40 S&W,.45 ACP.
Lead has been banned as an ingredient in ammunition used to hunt waterfowl under federal law since 1978. However, it is still permitted for use in hunting deer, bear, sheep, goat, raccoons, and other terrestrial game species in several states. The use of lead ammunition on wildlife is currently under review by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of its commitment to reduce human exposure to lead through all sources including hunting.
The best way to avoid lead poisoning is not to handle or come in contact with any type of ammunition. If you must touch lead items, wear protective clothing (gloves) and use cleaning products designed for lead.
The only sure way to avoid lead contamination is not to eat any animal product.
Hunters and their families who use lead bullets or shot are at risk of lead poisoning in several ways, including ingesting lead shot pellets or lead bullet fragments or residues in game meat, ingesting lead residue from handling lead bullets, and inhaling airborne lead during ammunition reloading or at shooting ranges (Carey et al. 2016). Young children are most at risk from lead poisoning because they can be curious about what happens to the shot they find on the ground, put objects with lead content into their mouths, and consume more ammunition. Women of child-bearing age are also at risk because any lead exposure can harm an embryo or a fetus. The best way to avoid lead exposure is not to handle or scavenge lead ammunition or old guns.
The most important source of lead for humans is probably lead in old paint. Other sources include batteries and gasoline tanks. In fact, up until 1990, gasoline sold in the United States was considered leaded fuel because it contained up to 5 percent lead. The government eventually decided that enough lead was being absorbed by our environment without our knowing it, so in order to protect public health, they banned its use in gasoline production. Today, almost all gasoline sold in the United States is lead free.
When you fire a gun, some of the lead inside the bullet leaves microscopic particles of lead dust in the surrounding area. These particles are very small and can enter the body through the lungs or skin.
Little attention has been paid to hunting or fishing activities that may expose people to hazardous levels of lead. Because of its bulk and malleability, lead has long been the principal metal used in bullets, yet lead is an extremely poisonous substance. The main danger associated with lead bullets is their potential to break up inside a body and release their metal contents into the blood. Although this possibility has not been documented as being harmful, it can't be ruled out.
The only way to be certain whether lead bullets are safe for birds is to shoot many of them and watch for effects. But because lead bullets are cheap and easy to obtain, they are still sold for hunting game birds such as quail and pheasant. Field mice, gerbils, and other small animals are also hunted with lead bullets. Concerns about lead contamination have prevented some countries from importing oil-derived products; however, this issue has not been raised regarding lead ammunition.
How does lead enter the environment through shooting? Lead bullets remain radioactive for quite some time after being fired into flesh or soil. This means that even if all the lead bullets were to be removed from the environment immediately after use, some level of radiation would still be present. Over time, though, these radiotoxins degrade and lose their toxicity.
Lead from ammunition has been shown to have an impact on dozens of animal species, particularly birds. The federal government prohibited the use of lead shot for waterfowl shooting in 1991 because the hazardous element was thought to be the cause of population decreases. Lead has been shown to accumulate in the body, with serious consequences for animals and humans who eat contaminated food products. The only current use of lead in firearms is in custom-made guns, which are sold only in a few gun shops in California and Arizona.
In addition to being harmful to wildlife, there are concerns about human health implications from handling or consuming game animals that have been shot with lead bullets. The only way to avoid this problem is not to shoot waterfowl, but instead to release them unharmed to continue their important role in our ecosystem.
There are many alternatives to lead shot for hunting waterfowl, including metal shots, plastic shots, and sandpaper shots. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages; it's best to learn how to load your own shell before heading out into the field.
The use of lead in ammunition is now strictly regulated by law. All commercial producers of ammunition must certify that they are not using any product containing lead more than 0.5 percent by weight. This requirement applies to all types of ammunition, including rifle, pistol, and shotgun shells.