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For Immediate Release, March 18, 2013

Contact: Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 669-7357

As California Considers Bill to Ban Lead Hunting Ammunition,
National Poll Finds Most Americans Support Switch to Nontoxic Bullets

Rendon Bill Aimed at Protecting Wildlife, Humans From Needless Lead Poisoning

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— As the California legislature begins considering Assembly Member Anthony Rendon’s bill mandating use of nonlead ammunition for all hunting in California, a new national poll has found that 57 percent of Americans support requiring the use of nontoxic bullets for hunting. The poll, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity, also found that more Americans support a ban on lead ammunition than oppose it and that a majority of voters think Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats to ban lead in ammunition.

“Lead poisoning from ammunition exacts a deadly toll on wildlife, killing bald eagles, endangered California condors, swans, loons and millions of other birds each year. It’s heartening to see that most Americans agree there’s no reason to continue putting toxic lead into the food chain or risking human health when there are nontoxic bullets already on the market and in use by hunters,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate at the Center. “We applaud Assembly Member Rendon’s leadership on this critical environmental and public-health issue.”

The national poll of 657 registered voters was conducted last month by Public Policy Polling. The margin of error is +-3.85 percent. Among the results:

• 57 percent support mandating a switch from lead bullets to nontoxic alternatives for hunting, while only 27 percent oppose such a switch;
• 48 percent think lead should be banned from hunting ammunition, while 33 percent oppose a ban;
• 51 percent say Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats to ban lead in ammunition, whereas only 33 percent want Republicans to oppose these efforts

This week Rendon’s Assembly Bill 711 is likely to be amended and referred to the Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife. The text of the bill should be available Tuesday. Coauthors include Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), President pro tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Assembly Member Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Assembly Member Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley).

“We’ve reduced toxic lead in our air, water and food by banning lead from gasoline, plumbing, paint, ceramic eating utensils, toys, jewelry and imported candy,” said Miller. “It’s way past time to do the same for our wildlife and people who eat wild game.”

The Center for Biological Diversity launched its Get the Lead Out campaign in 2004, organizing conservation groups, American Indians, hunters, health professionals and wildlife rehabilitators to pressure California and Arizona to require nonlead hunting ammunition to prevent lead poisoning of endangered condors. In 2007 and 2008 the California legislature and state game commission approved regulations requiring use of nonlead ammunition for all hunting within the condor’s range in central and Southern California. Arizona has refused to require nontoxic ammunition, despite frequent deaths of condors from lead poisoning. A coalition of 265 organizations in 40 states petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency for nationwide regulations ending the use of toxic lead hunting ammunition; they filed suit when the EPA refused to act.

California’s nonlead hunting regulations are limited in scope and have not solved continued lead poisonings of eagles and other wildlife throughout much of the state. However, the regulations demonstrate that hunters can easily transition to hunting with nontoxic bullets, as there has been no decrease in game tags or hunting since the requirements for nonlead ammunition went into effect, and hunters in Southern and Central California continue to hunt all their traditional game using copper bullets.

Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife even at low levels. Lead exposure can cause a range of health effects, from acute poisoning and death to long-term problems such as reduced reproduction, inhibition of growth, and damage to neurological development. Millions of nontarget birds and other wildlife are poisoned each year from scavenging carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments or from ingesting spent lead-shot pellets, mistaking them for food or grit. Spent ammunition causes lead poisoning in 130 species of birds and animals. Nearly 500 scientific papers document the dangers to wildlife from this lead exposure.

Studies using radiographs show that lead ammunition leaves fragments and numerous imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead that contaminate game meat far from a bullet track, causing significant health risks to people eating wild game. Some state health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of dangerous lead contamination from bullet fragments.

There are numerous commercially available, nontoxic alternatives to lead rifle bullets and shotgun pellets. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibited use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1991 and there are more than a dozen approved nonlead shot types. More than three dozen manufacturers market nonlead bullets in 35 calibers and 51 rifle cartridge designations, with superior ballistics, accuracy and safety. A recent study deflates any argument that price and availability of nonlead ammunition preclude switching to nontoxic rounds for hunting; researchers found no major difference in the retail price of equivalent lead-free and lead-core ammunition for most popular calibers.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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