How contaminated with ammunition-derived lead is meat from European small game animals? Assessing and reducing risks to human health

Deborah J. Pain, Rhys E. Green, Mark A. Taggart, Niels Kanstrup

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Abstract

Small game animals are generally hunted with
lead gunshot which often fragments causing elevated lead
concentrations in meat and presenting health risks to
frequent consumers and vulnerable groups. We reviewed
three decades of European data on lead concentrations in
the meat of gamebirds, rabbits and hares across countries
with various restrictions on lead gunshot use. Mean meat
lead concentrations decreased to a low level in Denmark,
the only country in the study with a total ban on lead
gunshot use. In contrast, elsewhere in Europe meat lead
concentrations increased over time, an unexplained and
previously undescribed finding. The only regulatory
restriction associated with a decrease in meat lead
concentrations was the Danish total ban on lead gunshot
use. We calculated an arithmetic mean lead concentration
in small game meat of 5.205 ppm w.w. (2011–2021) from
across Europe. EU and UK regulators are considering
banning lead ammunition for all hunting to protect human
and wildlife health. The mean value we found for small
game meat (2011–2021) was fourteen times higher than
that used in a recent EU-wide risk assessment
Original languageEnglish
JournalAMBIO
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2022

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