Bird Studies Implicate
Lead Bullet Residues as a Possible Threat to Human Health |
Immediate Release: April 30, 2008
, American Bird Conservancy, 202/234-7181 ext. 216
Susan Whaley, 208-362-8274, 208-860-2641 cell, email@example.com
(Washington, D.C.) Studies of several bird
species, including the endangered California Condor, have
provided extensive documentation of the health hazard posed
to birds that ingest lead ammunition residues in the remains
of gun-killed animals. Now, new studies suggest that humans
who eat game shot with lead ammunition may also be at risk.
A conference to further explore these links, "Ingestion
of Spent Lead Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans,"
sponsored by The Peregrine Fund, will be held May 12-15, 2008,
at Boise State University.
|X-rays revealed that
packages of venison contained lead fragments (circled
in red) in a study by The Peregrine Fund.
Photo: The Peregrine
“We’ve been studying the effects
of condor lead ingestion for years,” said Rick Watson,
Vice President of The Peregrine Fund, a conservation organization
that leads the California Condor recovery program in Arizona.
“Condors are sickened and some die from eating the remains
of shot animals. The possibility that other species, including
humans, are also at risk prompted us to organize this conference.”
Recently published research suggests that
even very low levels of lead exposure in children can cause
learning disabilities, and in adults may increase risk of
Alzheimer’s disease and death from stroke or heart attack.
Lead is also associated with impaired visual and motor function,
growth abnormality, neurological and organ damage, hearing
loss, hypertension and reproductive complications. The degree
of lead exposure associated with many of these problems is
much lower than previously believed.
North Dakota state health officials recently
ordered food banks to discard donated venison because it can
contain lead fragments. Dr. William Cornatzer, a Bismarck
physician and member of The Peregrine Fund board of directors,
made the discovery after learning about the problem in a Peregrine
Fund report. Cornatzer collected about 100 one-pound packages
of ground venison from food pantries in December and ran CT
scans on the meat. The North Dakota Health Department confirmed
the presence of lead in its own tests. Cornatzer plans to
present his findings at the conference.
"The lead studies have once again
shown us that we ignore the plight of birds at our own peril,"
said Dr. Michael Fry, Director of Conservation Advocacy at
American Bird Conservancy. "Condors, eagles, ravens,
and other wildlife have given us advanced warning of a problem
that we are now learning may also have human health consequences."
The Peregrine Fund will present results
of its own recent investigation on lead in hunter-killed animals
at the conference. The group is studying the amount of lead
in venison from deer shot with standard lead bullets, which
fragment into hundreds of tiny pieces upon impact. Their previously
published research has shown that these fragments scatter
widely into the meat along the bullet’s path of travel.
Preliminary results of The Peregrine Fund’s current
study will be given at the conference on May 13. The final
report will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
|California Condor. Photo: FWS
A recent study found elevated levels of
lead in Common Ravens during the hunting season for deer and
elk in the Yellowstone region. Scavengers, such as ravens
and raptors, eat offal piles left by hunters, or animals that
were shot and not recovered. These remains contain lead bullet
fragments. Derek Craighead and co-authors of the raven study,
are expected to present additional data at the conference
showing that lead is also reaching elevated levels in Golden
Eagles, Bald Eagles, and other scavengers during the hunting
"Unfortunately, the study of ravens
in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem indicates that poisonings
of birds, both scavengers and raptors, by lead bullets is
a widespread problem," said Dr. Fry.
Recently, there has been a great deal of
attention on the problem of lead bullets due to the poisonings
of endangered California Condors, highlighted
by several independent studies that will be presented
at the conference. The use of lead bullets has been banned
in the California range of the condor, and work continues
to protect the species in Arizona through voluntary use by
hunters of non-lead ammunition.
"When informed of the severity of
the problem for condors, most hunters in Arizona have chosen
to use non-lead ammunition to benefit wildlife," added
Watson, "and once the results from the conference become
widely understood, hunters may also choose non-lead ammunition
to benefit themselves and their families."
Established in 1970, The Peregrine Fund
works worldwide to conserve biological diversity by restoring
endangered birds of prey and identifying their key environmental
threats, ecology, and relationship with humans. The organization
restores rare species through captive breeding and releases,
conserves habitat, improves capacity for local conservation,
and conducts scientific research and environmental education.
More than 80 percent of The Peregrine Fund’s annual
budget is privately funded. Administrative costs are almost
entirely funded by an endowment, allowing 96 percent of donations
to go directly to raptor recovery.
Conservancy is the only organization that works solely
to conserve native wild birds and their habitats throughout
the Americas. ABC acts to safeguard the rarest bird species,
restore habitats, and reduce threats, while building capacity
in the conservation movement. ABC is the voice for birds,
ensuring that they are adequately protected; that sufficient
funding is available for bird conservation; and that land
is protected and properly managed to maintain viable habitat.
ABC is a 501(c)(3) membership organization that is consistently
awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group,