The dangers of lead as a toxin for humans are widely known, and that is why lead is banned in everything from paint to toys to gasoline. But lead also poses an insidious threat to wildlife – particularly birds. We’ve seen it devastate waterfowl populations, drive the California Condor to the brink of extinction, and threaten our national bird, the Bald Eagle.
In 2013, Audubon California joined abroad coalition of organizations that successfully passed legislation requiring the use of nonlead ammunition for hunting in California by 2019. Assembly Bill 711 was co-sponsored by Audubon California, Defenders and Wildlife, and the Humane Society of the United States. We are now actively working to support the State of California to implement the new law as quickly as possible.
The campaign was bolstered by a joint statement from leading researchers in the field of lead toxicity saying that "Lead-based ammunition is likely the greatest, largely unregulated source of lead knowingly discharged into the environment in the United States." The researchers concluded: "Based on overwhelming evidence for the toxic effects of lead in humans and wildlife, even at very low exposure levels, convincing data that the discharge of lead-based ammunition into the environment poses significant risks of lead exposure to humans and wildlife, and the availability of non-lead alternative products for hunting (Thomas, 2013), we support reducing and eventually eliminating the introduction of lead into the environment from lead-based ammunition."
Audubon California has long been active in the effort to remove the dangers of lead in the environment, particularly from spent lead ammunition. With the help of our legislative and conservation partners, we were able to pass legislation (Assembly Bill 821) in 2007 eliminating the use of lead ammunition in the range of the California Condor. In 2010, Audubon California fought unsuccessfully to eliminate the use of lead shot on more than 600,000 acres of state wildlife areas.
We continue to believe that lead ammunition poses an unacceptable risk to birds and wildlife in California, and our efforts to address this situation will continue.
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