Lead content in wild game shot with lead or non-lead ammunition - Does "state of the art consumer health protection" require non-lead ammunition?
The toxicity of lead has been known for a long time, and no safe uptake level can be derived for humans. Consumers' intake via food should therefore be kept as low as possible. Game meat can contain elevated levels of lead due to the use of lead ammunition for hunting. A risk assessment conducted in 2010 by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment including various consumption scenarios revealed a possible health risk for extreme consumers of game meat hunted with lead ammunition (i.e. hunters and members of hunters' households). Babies, infants, children and women of childbearing age were identified as vulnerable group with regards to the developmental neurotoxicity of lead. It was noted, that a sound data base was required in order to refine the assessment. Therefore, the research project "Safety of game meat obtained through hunting" (LEMISI) has been conducted in Germany, with the aims of determining the concentrations of lead (as well as of copper and zinc) brought into the edible parts of game meat (roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa)) due to using either lead or non-lead hunting ammunition, whilst concurrently taking geogenic (i.e. "background") levels of lead into account. Compared to non-lead ammunition, lead ammunition significantly increased lead concentrations in the game meat. The use of both lead and non-lead ammunition deposited copper and zinc in the edible parts of game meat, and the concentrations were in the range of those detected regularly in meat of farm animals. For the average consumer of game meat in Germany the additional uptake of lead only makes a minor contribution to the average alimentary lead exposure. However, for consumers from hunters' households the resulting uptake of lead-due to lead ammunition-can be several times higher than the average alimentary lead exposure. Non-lead bullets in combination with suitable game meat hygienic measures are therefore recommended in order to ensure "state of the art consumer health protection".