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Lead Hazard Reduction Timeline for Wildlife and Humans

2000 B.C. – Environmental problems from lead mines first documented

400 B.C. – Hippocrates accurately describes the symptoms of lead poisoning

476 A.D. – Roman Empire collapses; lead use in water pipes, cosmetics, pottery and food suspected as contributing factor, despite Roman knowledge of health hazards

1500s – Lead used as poison for assassinations in renaissance Europe

1621 – First lead mining in New World colonies, in Virginia

1786 – Ben Franklin deplores that nothing has been done to protect people from the "mischievous effect" of lead poisoning

1842 – Lead poisoning first identified as a disease in wild birds

1870s – First reports of incidents of lead poisoning of waterfowl at hunting sites

1890s – First documented mortality of waterfowl due to lead shot, information on lead hazards to wildlife published in scientific literature and the press

1920s – Oil companies began adding tetraethyl lead to gasoline

1922 – League of Nations bans interior lead paints

1930 – Leading scientists report lead poisoning in waterfowl to be widespread

1959 – Major scientific study identifies spent lead shot as source of exposure and widespread hazard for waterfowl

1970 – Clean Air Act passes, giving the Environmental Protection Agency a mandate to identify, and set standards for, harmful pollutants, including lead

1970s – Concerns about lead toxicity from fishing weights for water birds published

1972 – First nontoxic shot use requirements for limited areas in United States

1973 – EPA initiates a phasedown of lead levels in motor vehicle gasoline to reduce health risks from lead emissions

1980 – United States using 1.3 million tons of lead per year, or 5,221 grams of lead per American per annum, a rate of dependence on lead nearly 10 times greater than ancient Romans

1980 – Amount of lead in gas drops 50 percent from previous decade; average human blood-lead levels in United States correspondingly drop 50 percent, levels in children drop 37 percent

1980s – Numerous secondary lead poisoning cases documented in bald eagles

1985 – Last wild California condors brought into captivity for emergency-breeding program due to high risks birds face in the wild, particularly from lead poisoning

1986 – Federal regulations initiated to phase out lead shot for waterfowl hunting

1986 – Safe Drinking Water Act amended to require lead-free plumbing; EPA sets standards limiting lead concentrations in public water systems and pipes

1986 – Britain bans use of most lead fishing sinkers to protect swans

1990 – Clean Air Act amended to prohibit leaded gasoline in motor vehicles by 1995

1991 – Lead shot banned for all waterfowl hunting in entire United States

1991 – EPA issues regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act to limit the amount of lead in drinking water

1992 – Studies published on hazards of lead fishing sinkers to loons

1992 – Lead Exposure Reduction measures pass Congress, identifying dangerous levels of lead, publishing lead hazard information, and regulating residential renovation activities and federal facilities to abate and control lead paint

1994 – EPA proposes nationwide ban on manufacture, import, processing, and distribution of lead fishing sinkers of a size hazardous to waterfowl — but the regulations are never ratified

1995 – EPA issues regulations banning all lead in motor vehicle gasoline

1995          The use of lead solder in food cans is banned under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

1995 – Percentage of U.S. children with elevated blood-lead levels has dropped from 88.2 percent in the 1970s to 4.4 percent by 1995

1996 – Food and Drug Administration bans the use of lead foil caps on wine bottles

1997 – Canada implements partial ban on small-sized lead fishing sinkers in national parks and national wildlife areas

1999 – Canada issues ban on lead shot for hunting migratory game birds

1999 – Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to expand lead-free fishing areas on national wildlife reserves, wilderness areas, and waterfowl sites — but never issues a final decision

2000 – Seventy-four nations have implemented some sort of regulations on the use of lead shot, and 37 more nations are preparing legislation; only four countries have applied restrictions to the sale and use of lead fishing sinkers

2000 – Scientific reports show significant reduction in lead exposure to waterfowl after implementation of 1991 lead shot ban

2000 – Lead air pollution shown to have decreased 98 percent since 1970

2004 – Conservation groups petition California to require nonlead ammunition for hunting in condor habitat

2006 – Lawsuit filed against California for allowing lead ammunition to continue to poison California condors

2006 – 95 percent of all condors in Arizona found to have lead exposure; 70 percent of the Arizona flock must be taken into captivity and treated for lead poisoning

2007 – California legislature approves the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act, requiring hunters to use nonlead ammunition for hunting big game and coyotes within the California condor’s range in central and Southern California

2007 – The California Fish and Game Commission approves additional hunting regulations that expand the nonlead bullet requirements to include hunting nongame birds and mammals within the condor range

2007 – Major recall of toys from China containing lead

2007 – Venison donated by hunters to food centers in North Dakota and Minnesota found to have high levels of lead bullet fragments, pose health risk to humans consuming venison

2007 – Number of condor deaths in California confirmed or linked to lead poisoning rises to 15 birds

2008 – Several studies demonstrate potential risks to humans who consume game meat harvested with lead rifle ammunition

2008 – The California Fish and Game Commission extends protections of the Ridley-Tree Condor Conservation Act to depredation hunting, the shooting of animals deemed a nuisance or threat

2009 – Lawsuit filed to force management plans on public lands in Arizona to include actions to protect Grand Canyon condors from toxic lead

2009 – National Park Service announces plan to eliminate use of lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle in national parks by 2010

2009 – The EPA grants citizen petition to ban lead automobile wheel balancing weights — regulations requiring nonlead alternatives to be issued in 2011

2010 – California passes legislation reducing amount of lead that is permissible in plumbing products used to convey or dispense drinking water

2010 – Confirmed lead poisoning death of 15th endangered condor in Arizona since reintroduction program began in 1996, with many more deaths suspected to be from spent lead ammunition

2010 – Conservation groups petition the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act to ban use of all lead ammunition and all lead fishing tackle nationwide; more than 120 organizations in 30 states — representing birders, conservationists, hunters, scientists, veterinarians, American Indians and public employees — weigh in supporting a ban, but the EPA refuses to review the petition

2010 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bans the use of lead ammunition for hunting nuisance birds

2011 – The Fish and Wildlife Service announces it will begin cleaning up toxic lead-based paint chips from decaying military buildings at the former naval base on Midway Atoll, responsible for killing up to 10,000 Laysan albatross chicks each year

Photo by Scott Frier, USFWS