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Lead is harmful, especially for children. Lowered IQ, learning disabilities, behavioral problems - all from lead exposure. There are no safe lead levels in individuals, so you want to avoid lead and lead-containing products whenever possible. So it shouldn't be a surprise that a study found that owning guns (firearms) is correlated with elevated lead levels in children.

The cause is the lead ammunition (bullets) and primer used in the firearms. Lead styphnate is commonly used in the primer, which is the explosive that ignites the gunpowder. When a bullet is fired, fumes and fine lead particles are released into the air.

The researchers point out: When lead bullets are used, and the guns are discharged, then lead dust is produced. This lead dust gets everywhere, including on clothes, the body, personal items (e.g., phone, bags, laptop), and in vehicles. The lead dust is brought home, where it further settles on toys, the floor, rugs, and upholstery.

By the way, for hunters bringing home meat they killed with lead bullets - the lead (from tiny fragments or microscopic pieces) gets into the meat far from the bullet. So they are eating meat contaminated with lead. And the more of this meat is eaten, the higher the blood levels in the person.

Bottom line: Use non-lead bullets in firearms. 

From Science Daily: Firearm ownership is correlated with elevated lead levels in children, study finds

Childhood lead exposure, primarily from paint and water, is a significant health concern in the United States, but a new study has identified a surprising additional source of lead exposure that may disproportionately harm children: firearms. ...continue reading "Firearms and Elevated Lead Exposure In Children"

Lead buckshot Credit: Wikipedia

If you use lead bullets or buckshot when hunting wild game or birds, then some of the lead will get into you when you eat the meat. Even after the bullet or buckshot is removed, tiny lead fragments remain that can not be easily seen. A recent study found this is also true with wild pheasants that were killed with lead buckshot or pellets.

Studies show that even after the bullet is removed from a dead animal, numerous very small lead fragments remain in the soft tissue. In deer, lead fragments have been found as far away as 45 cm from the lead bullet's path. Lead shotgun pellets also fragment into small pieces when they are fired into gamebirds and waterfowl.

The researchers purchased carcasses of wild pheasants (all shot by hunters on farmland in the UK) from a butcher shop. All the pheasant carcasses contained tiny metal (lead) fragments, and most contained a large number of them - 75% had more than 15 small fragments. These could be seen on the micro-CT scanner, which shows more than x-rays.

Very important: Studies find that the more people eat meat killed using lead ammunition - the higher their blood lead levels. This is because they are eating the small lead fragments in the meat. These fragments are too small to be easily detected and removed by the consumer during food preparation or while eating.

Bottom line: Avoid eating any meat that was killed with lead ammunition. Lead is toxic when ingested, and there is no save level. Instead, hunting should be done with non-lead ammunition.

From Science Daily: Pheasant meat sold for food found to contain many tiny shards of toxic lead

Eating pheasant killed using lead shot is likely to expose consumers to raised levels of lead in their diet, even if the meat is carefully prepared to remove the shotgun pellets and the most damaged tissue. ...continue reading "After Using Lead Ammunition, Lead Fragments Remain In the Hunted Meat"

We all know that lead exposure is harmful, especially to developing babies and children. But what about eating meat (e.g. venison) from an animal that has been shot with lead bullets? Does the lead contaminate the meat?

This is an important question because hunters provide game not only for their families, but also donate meat (such as venison) to food pantries.

A number of studies over the years have examined this issue and the finding is that YES - using lead-based bullets contaminates the meat. Bullets can fragment into hundreds of small pieces (many are microscopic fragments only detectable with x-rays or chemical analysis), especially if they hit large bones of the animal. These fragments are still there and detectable after processing.

So yes, people wind up ingesting meat with tiny lead bullet fragments, even if they cut away several inches of meat from the bullet's path in the animal. Tiny bullet fragments travel more than 6" inches away, and even 11" away from the bullet path. Studies find that eating meat from animals shot with lead based ammunition results in a spike in blood lead levels - which gradually goes down over months, but also migrates to the bones where it stays.

In 2013 a group of 30 nationally and internationally recognized scientists with lead and environmental health expertise collaborated to create an evidence-based consensus statement called Health Risks from Lead-Based Ammunition in the Environment—A Consensus Statement of Scientists 2013. Along with listing scientific evidence, they ask for the reduction and elimination of lead-based ammunition, in order to protect human and environmental health.

Unfortunately, hunters usually do not know this information. It's not publicized, and doctors don't mention it. But hunters should be informed. One can't imagine anyone wanting to deliberately eat meat containing lead fragments. Or wanting to feed it to children or pregnant women.

What can you do? Don't use any lead-based ammunition. Only eat game shot with non-lead ammunition. The evidence is there that if lead-based ammo is used to kill the animal, then the person eating the animal will ingest some lead bullet fragments.

Excerpts from Environmental Health News: Lead in hunted meat: Who’s telling hunters and their families?  ...continue reading "Do Lead Bullets Contaminate Hunted Meat?"