Eliminating Lead from Recreational Shooting and Angling: Relating Wildlife Science to Environmental Policy and Regulation in North America

  • A. M. Scheuhammer
  • Vernon G. Thomas
Part of the Emerging Topics in Ecotoxicology book series (ETEP, volume 3)


The manufacture of projectiles for ammunition used in hunting and target shooting, and for terminal tackle (sinkers and jigs) used in recreational angling, comprises a significant continuing commercial use of lead, and a major source of lead deposition into the environment. Thousands of tons of metallic lead are deposited into the North American environment annually from hunting, target-shooting, and recreational angling activities. Numerous symposia and conferences have been held, and hundreds of research papers have been published, addressing lead exposure and toxicosis in wildlife from ingestion of spent lead ammunition and fishing sinkers, but the transition (regulatory or otherwise) to nontoxic substitutes has been slow, impeded in large part by the resistance of hunters, anglers, and their representative organizations to adopt nontoxic products, rather than an inability of the ammunition and tackle industries to manufacture and distribute such products. Here, we present a historical analysis of the interactions between environmental science and regulatory policy development with respect to the use of lead in recreational shooting and angling in North America.


Lead Exposure Bald Eagle Lead Shot Common Loon Recreational Angling 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Anderson WL (1992) Legislation and lawsuits in the United States and their effects on nontoxic shot regulations. In: Pain DJ (ed) Lead poisoning in waterfowl. IWRB Spec Publ 16. Slimbridge, UK, pp 56–60Google Scholar
  2. Anderson WL, Havera SP, Zercher BW (2000) Ingestion of lead and non-toxic shotgun pellets by ducks in the Mississippi flyway. J Wildl Manage 64:848–857CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bellrose FC (1959) Lead poisoning as a mortality factor in waterfowl populations. Illinois Nat Hist Surv Bull 27:235–288Google Scholar
  4. Birkhead ME (1982) Causes of mortality in the mute swan (Cygnus olor) on the River Thames. J Zool (London) 199:59–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowles JM (1908) Lead poisoning in ducks. Auk 25:312–313Google Scholar
  6. Braun JM, Kahn RS, Froelich T et al (2006) Exposures to environmental toxicants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in US children. Environ Health Perspect 114:1904–1909Google Scholar
  7. Bressler J, Kim K, Chakraborti T, Goldstein G (1999) Molecular mechanisms of lead neurotoxicity. Neurochem Res 24:595–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brister B (1992) Steel shot: ballistics and gunbarrel effects. In: Pain DJ (ed) Lead poisoning in waterfowl. IWRB Spec Publ 16. Slimbridge, UK, pp 26–28Google Scholar
  9. Caccia CL (1995) It’s about our health: towards pollution prevention. Report of The House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. Publ Works Gov Serv, Ottawa, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  10. Cade TJ (2007) Exposure of California condors to lead from spent ammunition. J Wildl Manage 71:2125–2133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Calvert JH (1876) Pheasants poisoned by swallowing shots. The Field 47:189Google Scholar
  12. Carlson BL, Nielson SW (1985) Influence of dietary calcium on lead poisoning in mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos). Am J Vet Res 46:276–282Google Scholar
  13. CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005) Preventing lead poisoning in young children. CDC, Atlanta, GeorgiaGoogle Scholar
  14. CEC. Commission of the European Communities (2006) Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council. Official J Eur Union L396:1–849Google Scholar
  15. Church ME, Gwiazda R, Risebrough RW et al (2006) Ammunition is the principal source of lead accumulated by California condors re-introduced to the wild. Environ Sci Technol 40:6143–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clemens ET, Krook L, Aronson AL, Stevens CE (1975) Pathogenesis of lead shot poisoning in the mallard duck. Cornell Vet 65:248–285Google Scholar
  17. Colburn C (1992) Lead poisoning in waterfowl: the Winchester perspective. In: Pain DJ (ed) Lead poisoning in waterfowl. IWRB Spec Publ 16. Slimbridge, UK, pp 46–50Google Scholar
  18. Daoust P-Y, Conboy G, McBurney S, Burgess N (1998) Interactive mortality factors in Common Loons from Maritime Canada. J Wildl Dis 34:524–531Google Scholar
  19. Degernes L, Heilman S, Trogdon M et al (2006) Epidemiological investigation of lead poisoning in trumpeter and tundra swans in Washington state, USA, 2000–2002. J Wildl Dis 42:345–358Google Scholar
  20. Dietrich KN, Ris MD, Succop PA et al (2001) Early exposure to lead and juvenile delinquency. Neurotoxicol Teratol 23:511–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elliott JE, Langelier KM, Scheuhammer AM et al (1992) Incidence of lead poisoning in bald eagles and lead shot in waterfowl gizzards from British Columbia, 1988–91. Can Wildl Serv Prog Note 220, Ottawa, Canada, pp 7Google Scholar
  22. Feierabend JS (1983) Steel shot and lead poisoning in waterfowl. An annotated bibliography of research 1976–1983. National Wildlife Federation Science and Technical Series No. 8, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  23. Feierabend JS (1985) Legal challenges to nontoxic (steel) shot regulations. Southeastern Assoc Fish Wildl Agencies Annu Conf Proc 39:452–458Google Scholar
  24. Fisher IJ, Pain DJ, Thomas VG (2006) A review of lead poisoning from ammunition sources in terrestrial birds. Biol Conserv 131:421–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Friend M, Franson JC, Anderson WL (2009) Biological and societal dimensions of lead poisoning in birds in the USA. In: Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, pp 34–60Google Scholar
  26. Goddard CI, Leonard NJ, Stang DL et al (2008) Management concerns about known and potential impacts of lead use in shooting and fishing activities. Fisheries 33:228–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Goyer RA (1993) Lead toxicity: current concerns. Environ Health Perspect 100:177–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Green RE, Hunt WG, Parish CN et al (2009) Effectiveness of action to reduce exposure of free-ranging California condors in Arizona and Utah to lead from spent ammunition. In: Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, pp 240–253Google Scholar
  29. Grinnell GB (1894) Lead poisoning. Forest and Stream 42:117–118Google Scholar
  30. Grinnell GB (1901) American duck shooting. Field & Stream Publishing, Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PAGoogle Scholar
  31. Johansen P, Asmund G, Riget F (2004) High human exposure to lead through consumption of birds hunted with lead shot. Environ Pollut 127:125–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Johansen P, Pedersen HS, Asmund G et al (2006) Lead shot from hunting as a source of lead in human blood. Environ Pollut 142:93–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Johnson FM (1998) The genetic effects of environmental lead. Mutat Res 410:123–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kanstrup N (2010) 8.2 Workshop Resolution. In: Kanstrup N (ed) Sustainable Hunting Ammunition Workshop Report, CIC Workshop, Aarhus, Denmark, 5–7 November 2009. The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), p 72Google Scholar
  35. Kendall RJ, Lacher TE Jr, Bunck C et al (1996) An ecological risk assessment of lead shot exposure in non-waterfowl avian species: upland game birds and raptors. Environ Toxicol Chem 15:4–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kennedy JA, Nadeau S (1993) Lead shot contamination of waterfowl and their habitats in Canada. Can Wildl Serv Tech Rpt Ser 164, Can Wildl Serv, Ottawa, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  37. Knopper LD, Mineau P, Scheuhammer AM et al (2006) Carcasses of shot Richardson’s ground squirrels may pose lead hazards to scavenging hawks. J Wildl Manage 70:295–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Komárek M, Ettler V, Chrastný V, Mihaljevič M (2008) Lead isotopes in environmental sciences: a review. Environ Int 34:562–577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kosnett MJ (2009) Health effects of low dose exposure in adults and children, and preventable risk posed by the consumption of game meat harvested with lead ammunition. In: Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, pp 24–33Google Scholar
  40. Kramer JL, Redig PT (1997) Sixteen years of lead poisoning in eagles, 1980–1995: an epizootiologic view. J Raptor Res 31:327–332Google Scholar
  41. Lanphear BP (1998) The paradox of lead poisoning prevention. Science 281(5383):1617–1618CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lanphear BP, Dietrich K, Auinger P et al (2000) Cognitive deficits associated with blood lead concentrations <10 microg/dl in US children and adolescents. Public Health Rep 115:521–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Locke LN, Young LT (1973) An unusual case of lead poisoning in a whistling swan. Maryland Birdlife 29:106–107Google Scholar
  44. Locke LN, Kerr SM, Zoromski D (1982) Lead poisoning in common loons (Gavia immer). Avian Dis 26:392–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lumeij JT (1985) Clinicopathologic aspects of lead poisoning in birds: a review. Vet Q 7:133–138Google Scholar
  46. Mateo R (2009) Lead poisoning in wild birds in Europe and the regulations adopted by different countries. In: Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, pp 71–98Google Scholar
  47. Mateo R, Rodriguez-de-la Cruz M, Vidal D et al (2007) Transfer of lead from shot pellets to game meat during cooking. Sci Total Environ 372:480–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McAtee WL (1908) Lead poisoning in ducks. Auk 25:472Google Scholar
  49. Meyer PA, Brown MJ, Falk H (2008) Global approach to reducing lead exposure and poisoning. Mutat Res/Revs Mutat Res 659:166–175Google Scholar
  50. Miller DA, Smith MD, Miller JE (2009) Caution before action on lead. Wildl Prof 3(52):66Google Scholar
  51. Morehouse KA (1992) Crippling loss and shot-type: the United States experience. In: Pain DJ (ed) Lead poisoning in waterfowl. IWRB Spec Publ 16. Slimbridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  52. Needleman H (2004) Lead poisoning. Annu Rev Med 55:209–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nontoxic Shot Advisory Committee (NSAC) (2006) Report of the nontoxic shot advisory committee. Fish and Wildlife Division, Minnesota Department Natural Resources, St. Paul, MinnesotaGoogle Scholar
  54. Norton MR, Thomas VG (1994) Economic analyses of crippling losses of North American waterfowl and their policy implications for management. Environ Conserv 21:347–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. O’Halloran J, Myers AA, Duggan PF (1988) Lead poisoning in swans and sources of contamination in Ireland. J Zool (London) 216:211–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Pain DJ, Carter I, Sainsbury AW et al (2007) Lead contamination and associated disease in captive and reintroduced red kites Milvus milvus in England. Sci Total Environ 376:116–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Pain DJ, Fisher IJ, Thomas VG (2009) A global update of lead poisoning in terrestrial birds from ammunition sources. In: Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, pp 99–118Google Scholar
  58. Pattee OH, Hennes SK (1983) Bald eagles and waterfowl: the lead shot connection. Trans N Am Wildl Nat Res Conf 48:230–237Google Scholar
  59. Perry C (1994) Lead sinker ingestion in avian species. Division of Environmental Contaminants Information Bulletin 94-09-01. US Fish Wildl Serv, Arlington, Virginia, pp 83Google Scholar
  60. Pokras MA, Chafel RM (1992) Lead toxicosis from ingested fishing sinkers in adult Common Loons (Gavia immer) in New England. J Zoo Wildl Med 23:92–97Google Scholar
  61. Pokras MA, Kneeland MR (2009) Understanding lead uptake and effects across species lines: a conservation medicine based approach. In: Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine, Boise, Idaho, pp 7–22Google Scholar
  62. Quortrup ER, Shillinger JE (1941) 3,000 wild bird autopsies in western lake areas. J Am Vet Med Assoc 99:382–387Google Scholar
  63. Rattner BA, Franson JC, Sheffield SR et al (2008) Sources and implications of lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle to natural resources. Wildlife Society Technical Review, The Wildlife Society, Bethesda, Maryland, pp 62Google Scholar
  64. Samuel MD, Bowers EF (2000) Lead exposure in American black ducks after implementation of non-toxic shot. J Wildl Manage 64:947–953CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sanderson GC, Bellrose FC (1986) A review of the problem of lead poisoning in waterfowl. Illinois Nat Hist Surv. Special Publ. 4, pp 34Google Scholar
  66. Scheuhammer AM (1996) Influence of reduced dietary calcium on the accumulation and effects of lead, cadmium, and aluminum in birds. Environ Pollut 94:337–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Scheuhammer AM (2009) Historical perspective on the hazards of environmental lead from ammunition and fishing weights in Canada. In: Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, pp 61–67Google Scholar
  68. Scheuhammer AM, Norris SL (1995) A review of the environmental impacts of lead shotshell ammunition and lead fishing weights in Canada. Can Wildl Serv Occas Paper 88, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Canada, p 52Google Scholar
  69. Scheuhammer AM, Dickson K (1996) Patterns of environmental lead exposure in waterfowl in eastern Canada. Ambio 25:14–20Google Scholar
  70. Scheuhammer AM, Templeton DM (1998) Use of stable isotope ratios to distinguish sources of lead exposure in wild birds. Ecotoxicology 7:37–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Scheuhammer AM, Perrault JA, Routhier E et al (1998) Elevated lead concentrations in edible portions of game birds harvested with lead shot. Environ Pollut 102:251–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Scheuhammer AM, Rogers CA, Bond D (1999) Elevated lead exposure in American woodcock (Scolopax minor) in eastern Canada. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 36:334–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Scheuhammer AM, Bond DE, Burgess NM et al (2003a) Lead and stable isotope ratios in soil, earthworms, and bones of American woodcock (Scolopax minor) from eastern Canada. Environ Toxicol Chem 22:2585–2591CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Scheuhammer AM, Money SL, Kirk DA, Donaldson G (2003b) Lead fishing sinkers and jigs in Canada: review of their use patterns and toxic impacts on wildlife. Can Wildl Serv Occas Paper 108, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Canada, pp 48Google Scholar
  75. Schultz JH, Millspaugh JJ, Washburn BE et al (2002) Spent-shot availability and ingestion on areas managed for Mourning Doves. Wildl Soc Bull 30:112–120Google Scholar
  76. Schultz JH, Padding PI, Millspaugh JJ (2006a) Will Mourning Dove crippling rates increase with nontoxic-shot regulations? Wildl Soc Bull 34:861–865CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Schultz JH, Millspaugh JJ, Bermudez AJ et al (2006b) Acute lead toxicosis in Mourning Doves. J Wildl Manage 70:413–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Schultz JH, Reitz RA, Sheriff SL et al (2007) Attitudes of Missouri small game hunters toward non-toxic shot regulations. J Wildl Manage 71:628–633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Schultz JH, Potts GE, Cornely JE et al (2009) The question of lead: considerations for mourning dove nontoxic shot regulation. Wildl Prof 3(2):46–49Google Scholar
  80. Shillinger JE, Cottam CC (1937) The importance of lead shot in waterfowl. N Am Wildl Conf Trans 2:398–403Google Scholar
  81. Sidor IF, Pokras MA, Major AR et al (2003) Mortality of Common Loons in New England, 1987–2000. J Wildl Dis 39:306–315Google Scholar
  82. Sieg R, Sullivan KA, Parish CN (2009) Voluntary lead reduction efforts within the northern Arizona range of the California condor. In: Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, pp 341–349Google Scholar
  83. Silbergeld EK (2003) Facilitative mechanisms of lead as a carcinogen. Mutat Res 533:121–133Google Scholar
  84. Simons TJ (1993) Lead-calcium interactions in cellular lead toxicity. Neurotoxicology 14:77–85Google Scholar
  85. Six KM, Goyer RA (1970) Experimental enhancement of lead toxicity by low dietary calcium. J Lab Clin Med 76:933–942Google Scholar
  86. Stevenson AL, Scheuhammer AM, Chan HM (2005) Effects of nontoxic shot regulations on lead accumulation in ducks and American woodcock in Canada. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 48:405–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Stone WB, Okoniewski JC (2001) Necropsy findings and environmental contaminants in Common Loons from New York. J Wildl Dis 37:178–184Google Scholar
  88. Strom SM, Patnode KA, Langenberg JA et al (2005) Lead contamination in American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) from Wisconsin. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 49:396–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. The Wildlife Society (2009) Final position statement. Lead in ammunition and fishing tackle. The Wildlife Society, Bethesda, Maryland. (
  90. Thomas VG (2003) Harmonizing approval of nontoxic shot and sinkers in North America. Wildl Soc Bull 31:292–295Google Scholar
  91. Thomas VG (2009a) Nontoxic shot ammunition: types, availability, and use for upland game hunting. Wildl Prof 3:50–51Google Scholar
  92. Thomas VG (2009b) The policy and legislative dimensions of nontoxic shot and bullet use in North America. In: Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, pp 351–362Google Scholar
  93. Thomas VG, Guitart R (2003) Lead pollution from shooting and angling, and a common regulative approach. Environ Policy Law 33(3/4):143–149Google Scholar
  94. Thomas VG, Guitart R (2010) Limitations of European Union policy and law for regulating use of lead shot and sinkers: comparisons with North American regulation. Environ Policy Gov 20:57–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Thomas VG, Scheuhammer AM, Bond DE (2009) Bone lead levels and lead isotope ratios in red grouse from Scottish and Yorkshire moors. Sci Total Environ 407:3494–3502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Tsuji JJS, Wainman BC, Martin ID, Sutherland C, Weber JP, Dumas P, Nieboer E (2008) The identification of lead ammunition as a source of lead exposure in First nations: the use of lead isotope ratios. Sci Total Environ 393:291–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Twiss MP, Thomas VG (1998) Preventing fishing-sinker-induced lead poisoning of common loons through Canadian policy and regulative reform. J Environ Manage 53:49–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. U S Environmental Protection Agency (1994) Lead fishing sinkers; response to citizens’ petition and proposed ban; proposed rule. Fed Reg Part III 40(745):11121–11143Google Scholar
  99. U S Environmental Protection Agency (2001) Best management practices for lead at outdoor shooting ranges, EPA-902-B-01-001.USEPA, New York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  100. U S Fish and Wildlife Service (1974) Proposed use of steel shot for hunting waterfowl in the United States. US Dept of the Interior, Draft Environmental Statement, DES 74–76, 79 ppGoogle Scholar
  101. U S Fish and Wildlife Service (1976) Final environmental impact statement: proposed use of steel shot for hunting waterfowl in the United States. US Dept of the Interior, Washington, DC, pp 276Google Scholar
  102. U S Fish and Wildlife Service (1986) Use of lead shot for hunting migratory birds in the United States: final supplemental environmental impact statement. USFWS, US Dept of the Interior, Arlington, VirginiaGoogle Scholar
  103. Watson RT, Fuller M, Pokras M et al (eds) (2009) Ingestion of lead from spent ammunition: implications for wildlife and humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, IdahoGoogle Scholar
  104. Wayland M, Bollinger R (1999) Lead exposure and poisoning in bald eagles and golden eagles in the Canadian prairie provinces. Environ Pollut 104:341–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Wendt JS, Kennedy JA (1992) Policy considerations regarding the use of lead pellets for waterfowl hunting in Canada. In: Pain DJ (ed) Lead poisoning in waterfowl. IWRB Spec Publ 16. Slimbridge, UK, pp 61–67Google Scholar
  106. Weidenhamer JD (2009) Lead contamination of inexpensive seasonal and holiday products. Sci Total Environ 407:2447–2450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Wetmore A (1919) Lead poisoning in waterfowl. US Dept Agric Bull 793:12Google Scholar
  108. Weyhrauch BB (1986) Waterfowl and lead shot. Environ Law 16:883–934Google Scholar
  109. Wilson LK, Davison M, Kraege D (2004) Lead poisoning of trumpeter and tundra swans by ingestion of lead shot in Whatcom County, Washington, USA, and Sumas Prairie, British Columbia, Canada. Bull Trump Swan Soc 32:11–13Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research CentreCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

Personalised recommendations