Lead Bullets - Dangerous to Hunt With? PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 17 November 2008 15:16
A recent study caught my attention in regards to how much lead bullets may leave traces of lead in wild game.  South Dakota supposedly has issued a release suggesting that children under 6, and I believe pregnant women, should not consume wild game shot with lead bullets.  One finding suggested that lead fragments were found in meat as much as 18 inches from the bullet's point of entry.  The study also claimed that testing hunters who had eaten venison shot with lead had higher than average amounts of lead in their system. Then, of course, there are those who are suggesting that the study may have some flaws.


First, here are some links to various articles:




Since I have two children under the age of 6, I was particularly concerned about this report.  No lead ammo is sometimes hard to find in certain calibers, it is expensive and often has different ballistic properties. 

I did some checking with other experts and got some additional opinions. Lloyd Fox, Big Game Coordinator with the KDWP sent in some helpful information.  Fox sent in a link to a  video on lead fragments in venison.  It is worth watching:  http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/fish_wildlife/lead/index.htm

Fox made the point that so far, the fact that lead is in venison killed by hunters using high powered rifles does not mean that there is a threat to human health by eating that venison.  To date there has been no documented health problems associated with eating venison taken by hunters using lead bullets.  Make no mistake, lead is a toxic substance.  The issue becomes one of how much and what are our tolerances.

Fox also noted that there are additional reports being prepared in other states.  Here are some links:A fact sheet and other information about the lead-in-venison issue is available on the North Dakota Department of Health's website at www.ndhealth.gov/lead/venison.

Also, information about the Minnesota bullet study is available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/lead/index.html 

On reading the North Dakota report, another expert pointed out a couple of salient paragraphs:

(1).  While this study suggests that consumption of wild game meat can adversely affect PbB, no participant had PbB higher than the CDC recommended threshold of 10μg/dl—the level at which CDC recommends case management; and the geometric mean PbB among this study population (1.17μg/dl) was lower than the overall population geometric mean PbB in the United States (1.60 μg/dl) (CDC 2005). The clinical significance of low PbB in this sample population and the small quantitative increase of 0.30μg/dl in PbB associated with wild game consumption should be interpreted in the context of naturally occurring PbB.

(2).  Age of housing, male sex, and current lead-related hobbies were other significant factors associated with an increase in PbB. Increased PbB was associated with increase in housing age, which is consistent with our knowledge of environmental exposure to lead (CDC 2005). 

While the study reports estimated increases with several of these nongame-related variables, it is not clear to me whether these attributes were evenly distributed among both categories of study participants (i.e. the game eaters and the nongame-eaters) or whether the overall comparison of game consumption vs nongame-consumption mean blood lead levels were adjusted to account for these variables.  Essentially these paragraphs seem to suggest, that although levels of lead in the sample hunter population might have been high, there could be other possible explanations. 

I am still deciding what I will do, but nonetheless it is an interesting study that we should probably pay attention to.  I toggle between not wanting to be a part of any hysteria versus wanting to be as careful as possible with what I feed my children.   It will be interesting to follow this research as it evolves.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2008 16:35