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For Immediate Release, June 26, 2012

Contact: Jonathan Evans, (415) 436-9682 x 318

Lead Ammunition Is Causing Condor Poisoning Epidemic

New Study Confirms Need to Protect Wildlife From Lead Poisoning

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.— In a study released Monday, researchers said that lead ammunition is creating an “epidemic” of lead poisoning in California condors. The team of environmental toxicologists conducting the study found that lead poisoning from spent ammunition is preventing the recovery of the condor, an endangered bird that remains at risk of extinction.

“The United States has removed toxic lead from paint, gasoline and most other products to protect human health and the environment,” said Jonathan Evans, Toxics and Endangered Species Campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s high time we get the lead out of spent ammunition to protect America’s wildlife.”

The study looked at more than 1,154 blood samples taken from wild California condors, finding that 48 percent of the birds had lead levels so high they could have died without treatment. The comprehensive study, led by Dr. Myra Finkelstein, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The study affirms the need to regulate wildlife lead poisoning from toxic ammunition on the national level because it poses the primary threat to condor recovery, despite California’s regulation of lead ammunition in condor habitat. The Center, along with a coalition of six other conservation groups, filed suit earlier this month to force the Environmental Protection Agency to take steps to control toxic lead contamination from ammunition throughout the country.  Last month the Center and allies notified the U.S. Forest Service of ongoing legal violations on Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest because of failures to control toxic lead ammunition, which is also the leading cause of death for Arizona’s California condors

“Needlessly poisoning our wildlife is a national tragedy,” said Evans. “There are safe and affordable alternatives to toxic lead ammunition for all hunting and shooting sports — that safer ammo is just sitting at the store waiting to be bought.”

Background on Lead
Despite being banned in 1992 for hunting waterfowl, spent lead shotgun pellets from other hunting uses continue to be frequently ingested by swans, cranes, ducks, geese, loons and other waterfowl. Birds and animals are poisoned when scavenging on carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments or ingesting spent lead-shot pellets, which contaminate popular hunting grounds at high densities. Spent lead from hunting is a widespread killer of more than 75 species of birds and nearly 50 mammals. More than 500 scientific papers have documented the dangers to wildlife from lead exposure.

Lead ammunition also poses health risks to people when bullets fragment in shot game and spread throughout the meat humans eat. Studies using radiographs show that numerous imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead can infect meat up to a foot and a half away from the bullet wound, causing a greater health risk to humans who consume lead-shot game than previously thought.

There are many alternatives to lead rifle bullets and shotgun pellets. More than a dozen manufacturers market hundreds of varieties and calibers of nonlead bullets and shot made of steel, copper and alloys of other metals, with satisfactory-to-superior ballistics. Hunters in areas with restrictions on lead ammunition have transitioned to hunting with nontoxic bullets.

Learn more about the Center’s Get the Lead Out campaign.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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