When reviewing regulatory agency websites (like the Centers for Disease Control, Environmental Health & Toxicology of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry), seldom is there mention of ammunition and fishing tackle being a source of lead exposure for human health. These agencies have looked at occupational and household lead hazards and the associated health-risk issues are well documented. Ammunition and fishing tackle are not mentioned as part of the household. Current research shows that lead exposure from consumption of game meat harvested with lead ammunition is a larger health hazard than previously thought.
Several medical references can be found noting that people with retained bullet fragments from gunshot wounds have increased risk to lead exposure and lead intoxication. Below are two external links.
Lead exposure in children can impact brain development, lowering IQ, causing attention deficit and learning disorders, and aggressive behavior. Ingested lead can be stored in bone tissue. As people age, bone deteriorates releasing lead. This can result in high blood pressure, kidney failure, Parkinson’s Disease, and more.
Recent research and reports have looked at the potential for lead exposure from lead fragments in wild game meat. Some of the reports are from within the contiguous U.S. and others involve First Nations people of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.
- Health Consultation: The potential for ingestion exposure to lead fragments in venison in Wisconsin. November 2008. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Division of Health Assessment and consultation.
- The presence of lead bullet fragments in venison intended for human consumption has been confirmed, and indicates a completed exposure pathway for the ingestion of lead-contaminated meat. A modeled exposure estimate, based on currently available field data, suggests a significant risk of elevated lead levels in blood among children consuming venison shot with lead ammunition. Because elevated blood lead has not been confirmed among consumers of venison, and because the measured lead content in venison varies greatly, there is an indeterminate public health hazard among these consumers. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends the use of non-lead ammunition as the simplest and most effective solution to lead poisoning, in both humans and wildlife, arising from the consumption of deer killed with lead ammunition.
- Lead Bullet Fragments in Venison from Rifle-Killed Deer: Potential for Human Dietary Exposure. Hunt W.G., Watson R.T., Oaks J.L., Parish C.N., Burnham K.K., et al. 2009. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5330. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005330
- ...people risk exposure to bioavailable lead from bullet fragments when they eat venison from deer killed with standard lead-based rifle bullets and processed under normal procedures. At risk in the U.S. are some ten million hunters, their families, and low-income beneficiaries of venison donations.
- Potential Hazard to Human Health from Exposure to Fragments of Lead Bullets and Shot in the Tissues of Game Animals. Pain D.J., Cromie R.L, Newth J, Brown MJ, Crutcher E, et al. (2010) PLoS ONE 5(4): e10315. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010315
- The potential health hazard from lead ingested in the meat of game animals may be larger than previous risk assessments indicated, especially for vulnerable groups, such as children, and those consuming large amounts of game.
- Health Effects of Low Dose Lead Exposure in Adults and Children, and Preventable Risk Posed by the Consumption of Game Meat Harvested with Lead Ammunition. Kosnett, M.J. 2009. In R.T. Watson, M. Fuller, M. Pokras, and W.G. Hunt (Eds.). Ingestion of Lead Shot from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, USA. DOI 10.4080/ilsa.2009.0103
- Epidemiological studies, and risk assessment modeling presented in this paper, indicate that regular consumption of game meat harvested with lead ammunition and contaminated with lead residues may cause relatively substantial increases in blood lead compared to background levels, particularly in children.
- Hunting with lead: Association between blood lead levels and wild gme consumption. Iqbal, S., Blumenthal, W., Kennedy, C., Yip, F.Y., et al. (2009) doi:10.1016/j.envres.2009.08.007
- Participants who consumed wild game had higher blood lead levels than those who did not consume wild game. These findings have population-wide implications, since a substantial proportion of the population in the United States, including hunters and their families as well as low-income families, consume wild game as a major source of protein and may be exposed to this environmental source of lead.
- Human Exposure to Lead from Ammunition in the Circumpolar North. Verbrugge, L.A., S.G. Wenzel, J.E. Berner, and A.C. Matz. 2009. In R.T. Watson, M. Fuller, M. Pokras, and W.G. Hunt (Eds.). Ingestion of Lead Shot from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, USA. DOI 10.4080/ilsa.2009.0110
- ...we review published literature on lead concentrations and lea isotope patterns from subsitence users in the circumpolar North, indicating that elevated lead exposure is associated with use of lead ammunition. Mechanisms of exposure include ingestion of lead dust, ammunition fragments, and shot pellets in harvested meat, and inhalation of lead dust during ammunition reloading. In Alaska, ammunition-related lead exposures have also been attributed to the use of indoor firing ranges, and the melting and casting of lead to make bullets.
- Monitoring of umbilical cord blood lead levels and sources assessment among the Inuit. B Lévesque, J-F Duchesne, C Gariépy, M Rhainds, et al. Occup Environ Med 2003;60:693-695
- A comparison between the [umbilical] cord blood isotope ratios of Inuit and southern Quebec newborns showed that lead sources for these populations were different. Our investigation suggests that lead shots used for game hunting were an important source of lead exposure in the Inuit population. A cohort study conducted in three Inuit communities shows a significant decrease of cord blood lead concentrations after a public health intervention to reduce the use of lead shot.
- Lead shot contribution to blood lead of First Nations people: The use of lead isotopes to identify the source of exposure. Tsuji, L.J.S., Wainman, B.C., Martin, I.D.,Sutherland, C., et al. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.06.048.
- ...lead isotope ratios have been used to identify lead ammunition (lead shotshell pellets and bullets) as a source of exposure for First Nations people of Canada, the actual source of lead exposure needs to be further clarified. Whole blood samples...were collected from participants prior to the traditional spring harvest of water birds, as well as post-harvest. It appears that the activity of hunting (i.e. use of a shotgun) was also an important route of lead exposure.
- Lead Sources in Human Diet in Greenland. Bjerregaard, P., Johansen, P., Mulvad, G., Pedersen, H.S., et al. Environ Health Perspect 112:1496-1498 (2004). doi:10.1289/ehp.7083
- Although blood lead levels have declined in Greenland, they are still elevated despite the fact that lead levels in Greenland environment are very low. Fragments of lead shot in game birds have been suggested as an important source of dietary exposure, and meals of sea birds, particularly eider, contain high concentrations of lead. In a cross-sectional population survey of Greenland...blood lead adjusted for age and sex was found to be associated with the reported consumption of sea birds.