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For Immediate Release, July 31, 2012

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

NRA Tries to Block Effort to Protect Condors, Eagles From Toxic Lead Ammunition

WASHINGTON— The National Rifle Association filed legal motions today to block the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting wildlife and people from toxic lead hunting ammunition left in the wild. Lead fragments needlessly poison and kill millions of birds each year, including bald eagles, swans and endangered California condors. The NRA moved to intervene in a suit filed by conservationists seeking a public process for EPA to consider regulating toxic lead in hunting ammunition. A similar petition filed earlier this year was supported by nearly 150 public-interest groups in 38 states.

“Americans don’t want eagles and condors and other wildlife dying from lead poisoning. The EPA can step in now and stop this epidemic with some common-sense solutions, but the NRA is standing in the way,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve removed toxic lead from gasoline, paint and most products exposing humans to lead poisoning; it’s past time to do the same with hunting ammunition, to protect our country’s wildlife.”

The NRA, joined by Safari Club International, filed its motion to intervene in the pending suit The Trumpeter Swan Society v. EPA, filed on June 6 in the D.C. District Court. The case was filed under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which grants the EPA the authority to regulate toxic substances, including lead bullets and shot contained in ammunition. The suit is aimed at common-sense regulations for lead hunting ammunition, since there are plenty of nontoxic alternatives available on the market and in use in many states.

“The NRA knows full well that switching to nontoxic ammo is not about restricting hunting — it’s about ending preventable lead poisoning of birds and reducing health risks for people eating lead-shot game,” said Miller. “That’s why hunters are involved in efforts to get the lead out of the food chain. The nonlead hunting regulations that have been in effect in California since 2008 are a good model for hunting to continue with nontoxic materials.”

The NRA has also championed legislation to strip the EPA’s authority to regulate toxic lead in ammunition and fishing equipment under the Toxic Substances Control Act, even though effective nontoxic alternatives exist for lead ammunition and sinkers for all hunting and fishing activities.

“The NRA continues to stake out positions that are out of step with Americans — including hunters — who care about wildlife and who don’t want to see birds needlessly and unintentionally poisoned,” said Miller.

Nearly 150 organizations in 38 states have asked the EPA to regulate the toxic components of ammunition, the lead bullet and shot projectiles that cause poisoning of wildlife, under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA has refused to act, leading to a lawsuit by conservation groups in June.

Nontarget birds and other wildlife are poisoned from scavenging carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments or from ingesting spent lead-shot pellets, which can cover popular hunting grounds at high densities. Spent ammunition causes lead poisoning in 130 species of birds and animals and frequently kills bald eagles, trumpeter swans and endangered California condors. Nearly 500 scientific papers have documented the dangers to wildlife from this kind of lead exposure.

Lead ammunition also poses health risks for people eating game contaminated with lead bullet fragments, which can spread throughout the meat that 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 was previously thought. State health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of lead contamination. Nearly 10 million hunters, their families and low-income beneficiaries of venison donations may be at risk.

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. For example, there has been no decrease in game tags or hunting activity since state requirements for nonlead hunting went into effect in significant portions of Southern California in 2008 to protect condors from lead poisoning.

Get more information 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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