Lead ammunition finally banned from wetlands across the EU
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Lead ammunition finally banned from wetlands across the EU

As of today, the 15th of February 2023, using lead shot ammunition in wetlands is illegal in all 27 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein. The law comes into force following a 2-year period given to the EU countries to prepare for the change.[1]

With this law in place, the lives of an estimated 1 million waterbirds which currently die of lead poisoning in the EU, will be saved and the perpetuation of extreme poisoning of wetland wildlife will be tackled once and for all. Exposure to lead can also have severe consequences for people should they be exposed to it, especially children.

Lead shot cartridges consists of hundreds of tiny round lead projectiles that hunters spray out of their shotguns to kill animals. They use it to hunt waterbirds and other small animals, in wetlands and elsewhere.

It is estimated that hunters have been polluting our wetlands with more than 4,000 tonnes of lead shot annually, despite the existence of competitively priced alternatives.

Lead shot is particularly problematic for waterbirds that ingest lead pellets, mistaking them for grit: small particles of stone or sand. Birds swallow small bits of grit to act like teeth in their gizzard, a specialized stomach constructed of thick, muscular walls used for grinding up food. The grit helps break down hard foods, such as seeds.

The ban will also decrease the secondary poisoning of raptors and scavengers, which are regularly poisoned while eating prey contaminated with lead shot.

The BirdLife Partnership has been working to have this poisonous ammunition banned for more than 20 years.

Barbara Herrero, Senior EU Nature Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe:
“This is huge. Despite banning lead from paint, petrol and virtually everything else several decades ago, it was still allowed to poison our shared environment – even when alternatives exist. With this ban, the EU has addressed a significant part of the problem. We now call on EU countries to make sure the ban is enforced.”

Unfortunately, the ban does not go beyond wetlands. Lead ammunition in hunting and outdoor sports shooting away from wetlands, as well as lead used in fishing sinkers and lures, will continue to poison the environment. But that can change soon. The European Chemicals Agency has been working hard on a second restriction which proposes a complete ban on their use.  The BirdLife Partnership will continue to stand up to the ammunition industry and hunting lobby to ensure Europe has the non-toxic environment it deserves.

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