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Lead ammunition threatens the environment and health

The European Chemicals Agency estimates that 30 000 to 40 000 tonnes of lead are dispersed in ecosystems through hunting and sport shooting

According to the ECHA study, hunters alone use 21,000 tonnes of lead each year in Europe.

The ammunition used by hunters and sport shooters is causing unsuspected lead contamination of ecosystems and posing a risk to the environment and human health. This is the major finding of an expert report made public on Wednesday 12 September by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

Based in Helsinki, it was seized in 2015 by the European Commission, which is considering measures to restrict the use of lead ammunition in wetlands, the most vulnerable. ECHA responded the following year that the available data justify restrictions on the use of lead in these fragile environments. The agency is now recommending additional restriction measures after reviewing new data.

In fact, the numbers are impressive. Every year, according to industry data cited by ECHA, 30 000 to 40 000 tonnes of lead are used in Europe in ammunition of various types. Of this total, says ECHA, “21,000 tonnes are used by hunters, with a maximum of 7,000 tonnes in wetlands and 14,000 tonnes on land.” Sportsmanship also disperses 10,000 to 20,000 tons of lead per year on the firing ranges.

The distribution of this contamination in the Member States of the European Union is not precisely known, but France obviously gives itself the lion’s share: about a quarter of the approximately 5.2 million European hunters are French.

” A poison ”
The effects on the environment concern primarily wildlife. ECHA estimates in a “preliminary” way that between one and two million birds die each year from lead poisoning. Either by directly ingesting lead pellets, or by secondary contamination, in the case of raptors.

Lead is not only toxic to animals, it is also toxic to humans.

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