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January 14, 2010

Trying to Scare Hunters Who Use Traditional Ammunition


An alarmist article written by Michael Glenn Easter at scienceline.org tries to scare hunters and others who enjoy eating venison by impying that game harvested with traditional ammunition is unsafe to eat. It is not.

The writer never contacted NSSF to get its position on the matter, yet he gives credence to a North Dakota dermatologist who two years ago unscientifically selected non-random sample packages of venison from food banks and "tested" them, saying they were contaminated with lead fragments. North Dakota health officials, who did not collect their own samples for study, then overreacted by ordering food banks to throw out tons of nutritious food. What the article  doesn't say is that the dermatologist's testing method was called into question, that he sits on the board of the Peregrine Fund, an organization whose stated agenda includes banning lead ammunition, and that the release of the dermatologist's "study" was timed to coincide with a Peregrine Fund conference aimed at advancing its agenda.

Eating game taken with traditional ammunition that contains lead-core components does not pose a health risk. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bears this out. The CDC's study of North Dakota hunters found that their blood lead levels were lower than the average American's. Additionally, the Iowa Department of Public Health has said, "IDPH maintains that if lead in venison were a serious health risk, it would likely have surfaced within extensive blood lead testing since 1992 with 500,000 youth under 6 and 25,000 adults having been screened." It has not.

Here's the data from CDC's North Dakota study: The adult with the highest lead level (9.82 micrograms per deciliter of blood) was still below the CDC recommended threshold for that of a child (10 micrograms per deciliter of blood) and well below the CDC recommended threshold for an adult (25 micrograms per deciliter of blood). Consider too that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn't even require removal of an employee from a job involving lead exposure until that employee's blood lead level reaches 60 micrograms per declilter of blood.

There is no evidence of a single case of human lead poisoning related to eating game taken with traditional ammunition, and no peer-reviewed scientic evidence exists as a reason to ban the use of such ammunition.

To allay any concerns about eating venison taken with traditional ammunition, hunters should point out the CDC study to other hunters, always with the reminder to properly field dress and butcher meat. Food pantries should be made aware of the CDC study as well, so that healthy, low-fat meat donated by hunters to feed the needy is not wasted out of unwarranted fear. To date, the North Dakota Department of Health encourages hunters to continue donating venison to local food banks as long as processing guidelines are adhered to. Food banks in nearly every other state willingly and gratefully accept venison from hunters, something they wouldn't do if it was unsafe.  

We expect less advocacy and more accurate and balanced reporting from a publication with the word "science" in its name.