WASHINGTON, March 2, 2017— On his first full day in office, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued an order revoking the phaseout of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on national wildlife refuges. The order reverses the position of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Obama that called for a phaseout of the use of toxic lead on refuges by 2022.
Spent lead ammunition causes lead poisoning in 130 species of birds and animals. Nearly 500 scientific papers document the dangers to wildlife from this lead exposure.
“Switching to nontoxic ammunition should be a no-brainer to save the lives of thousands birds and other wildlife, prevent hunters and their families from being exposed to toxic lead, and protect our water,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s ironic that one of the first actions by Secretary Zinke, who fancies himself a champion of hunters and anglers, leads to poisoning of game and waterfowl eaten by those same hunting families.”
Top scientists, doctors and public-health experts from around the country have long called for a ban on lead hunting ammunition, citing overwhelming scientific evidence of the toxic dangers posed to people and wildlife. A national poll found that 57 percent of Americans support requiring the use of nontoxic bullets for hunting.
The phaseout of lead ammunition is nothing new. Waterfowl hunters have successfully been using affordable nontoxic shot for more than 25 years. California will phase out lead ammunition by 2019, providing urgently needed protections for iconic and critically endangered California condor, hawks, owls and eagles.
“It’s another sad day for public health and wildlife under the Trump presidency when special interests again prevail over common-sense environmental safeguards,” said Evans.
Looking to cash in on the $30 million it spent on ads promoting Trump’s election, the National Rifle Association pressured Interior Secretary Zinke to quickly reverse the Obama administration’s science-based decision to get the lead out of our most pristine refuges.
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Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife even at very low levels. Exposure to it can cause a range of health effects, from acute poisoning and painful death to long-term problems such as reduced reproduction, inhibition of growth, and damage to neurological development.
Studies using radiographs show that lead ammunition leaves fragments and numerous imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead that contaminate game meat far from a bullet track, causing significant health risks to people eating wild game. Some state health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of dangerous lead contamination from bullet fragments.
Scientific studies have debunked arguments from the gun lobby that price and availability of nonlead ammunition precludes switching to nontoxic rounds for hunting; researchers found no major difference in the retail price of equivalent lead-free and lead-core ammunition for most popular calibers. As of 2013 more than three dozen manufacturers market affordable nonlead bullets in 35 calibers and 51 rifle cartridge designations.
Read more about the Center for Biological Diversity’s Get the Lead Out campaign.