Reducing Pb poisoning in birds and Pb exposure in game meat consumers: The dual benefit of effective Pb shot regulation

Rafael Mateo, Núria Vallverdú-coll, Ana López-antia, Mark A. Taggart, Monica Martínez-haro, Raimon Guitart, Manuel E. Ortiz-santaliestra

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47 Citations (Scopus)
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The use of lead (Pb) ammunition in the form of shot pellets has been identified as a Pb exposure risk in wildlife and their human consumers. We explore the hypothesis that Pb shot ban enforcement reduces the risk of avian Pb poisoning as well as Pb exposure in game meat consumers. We assessed compliance with a partial ban on Pb shot commencing in 2003 by examination of 937 waterbirds harvested by hunters between 2007 and 2012 in the Ebro delta (Spain). Prevalence of Pb shot ingestion was determined, as were Pb concentrations in liver and muscle tissue to evaluate the potential for Pb exposure in game meat consumers. Hunted birds with only embedded Pb shot (no steel) declined from 26.9% in 2007–08 to < 2% over the following three hunting seasons after ban reinforcement. Pb shot ingestion in mallards decreased from a pre-ban value of 30.2% to 15.5% in the post-ban period. Liver Pb levels were predominantly defined by the presence of ingested shot, whereas muscle levels were defined by the presence of both ingested and embedded shot. Only 2.5% of mallard muscle tissue had Pb levels above European Union regulations for meat (0.1 μg/g wet weight) in the 2008–09 season, when Pb shot ingestion prevalence was also at a minimum (5.1%). Effective restrictions in Pb ammunition use have a dual benefit since this reduces Pb exposure for game meat consumers due to embedded ammunition as well as reducing Pb poisoning in waterbirds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-168
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date2 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014


  • Dietary exposure
  • Environmental policy
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Pb poisoning
  • Non-toxic ammunition
  • Waterfowl


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