ECHA identifies risks to terrestrial environment from lead ammunition



The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) recommends that measures are needed to regulate the use of lead ammunition in terrestrial environments in addition to those proposed for wetlands. ECHA’s new report on non-wetland uses of lead in ammunition (gunshot and bullets) and in fishing weights has found sufficient evidence of risk to justify additional measures. The report concludes that measures are needed because they would:

  • limit additional pollution with lead and improve the quality of the environment. While about 5 000 tonnes of lead are currently dispersed into wetlands due to hunting, other shooting activities such as lead gunshot used in non-wetland areas spreads a further 14 000 tonnes of lead into the environment, and the use of lead bullets and fishing weights adds to this quantity. In addition, between 10 000 to 20 000 tonnes of lead are used in sports shooting activities; 
  • reduce the mortality of an estimated 1 to 2 million birds, such as pheasants and partridges, that may inadvertently swallow the lead shot, or scavenge or prey on lead poisoned birds in the terrestrial environment; and
  • reduce health risks to a significant population of hunters and their families who frequently eat game meat killed with lead shot or bullets.

ECHA found that the costs of replacing lead shot are limited as alternative steel shot is available, can be used in most shotguns, and is not significantly more expensive. As such, the extra costs to the individual hunter would be small.

This report is ECHA’s response to the European Commission’s request to collect information on potential risks of other uses of lead for hunting in terrains outside of wetlands, for target shooting outside of wetlands, and in sinkers and jigs for fishing.

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