November 6, 2008
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Firearms Industry Statement on Results of
CDC Blood Lead Levels in Hunters Study
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) -- the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry -- issued the following statement in response to study results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released by the North Dakota Department of Health, showing no evidence that lead or "traditional" ammunition pose any health risk to those who consume game harvested meat.
The CDC report on human lead levels of hunters in North Dakota has confirmed what hunters throughout the world have known for hundreds of years, that traditional ammunition poses no health risk to people and that the call to ban lead ammunition was nothing more than a scare tactic being pushed by anti-hunting groups.
In looking at the study results, the average lead level of the hunters tested was lower than that of the average American. In other words, if you were to randomly pick someone on the street, chances are they would have a higher blood lead level than the hunters in this study.
Also of note, the lead levels of children under 6 in the study had a mean of just 0.88, less than half the national average. Children over 6 had even lower lead levels. The CDC's level of concern for lead in children is 10.
A media advisory released by the North Dakota Department of Health cited the highest lead level reading of an adult study participant as still being lower than the CDC lead level threshold of concern for a child, and significantly lower than the CDC accepted threshold of concern for an adult. Furthermore, during a tele-press conference hosted by the ND Department of Health, officials stated they could not verify whether this adult even consumed game harvested with traditional ammunition. Correspondingly, the study only showed an insignificant 0.3 micrograms per deciliter difference between participants who ate wild game harvested with traditional ammunition and non-hunters in the non-random control group.
Also demonstrating their understanding that game harvested with traditional ammunition is safe to consume, the ND Department of Health, following the release of the CDC study results, encouraged hunters to continue donating venison to local food banks as long as processing guidelines were adhered to.
NSSF was critical of the ND Department of Health when earlier this year the Department overreacted to a non-peer reviewed study by a dermatologist who claimed to have collected packages of venison from food banks that contained lead fragments. North Dakota health officials did not conduct their own study, but merely accepted the lead-contaminated meat samples from the dermatologist. The ND Department of Health then ordered all food banks to discard their venison. Serious questions were raised in a subsequent investigative journalism piece published this summer about the scientific validity of the testing of venison samples from the ND food pantries, including concerns regarding the non-random selection of the samples.
It has since come to light that the dermatologist's efforts were not the independent actions of a concerned hunter, as he claimed. It was an orchestrated strategy by the Peregrine Fund -- an organization dedicated to eliminating the use of lead ammunition for hunting. The dermatologist serves on the Fund's Board of Directors.
For more than a century, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely consumed game harvested using traditional hunting ammunition, and despite there being no scientific evidence that consuming the game is endangering the health of individuals, special interest groups like the Peregrine Fund and anti-hunting groups are continuing to press state legislatures around the country to support a ban on this common, safe and effective ammunition.
These politically driven groups understand that while an outright ban on hunting would be nearly impossible to achieve, dismantling the culture of hunting one step at a time is a realistic goal. Banning lead ammunition is the first step of this larger political mission. We can only hope that with the conclusive CDC results concerning the safety of traditional ammunition, legislatures across the country will listen to science and not anti-hunting radicals.
The notion by some, that any amount of lead is a "concern," is scientifically unfounded rhetoric that runs contrary to nationwide, long-standing standards of evaluation. The NSSF is pleased that hunters and others can now comfortably continue consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition that has been properly field dressed and butchered, yet we remain unsettled that for so many months good and safe food was taken out of the mouths of the hungry as nothing more than a political gambit by special interest groups.