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Letter: Lead ammo debate continues

(Duluth News Tribune file photo)

The April 18 column from Peggy Farr on lead in hunting ammunition was highly selective in presentation and could cause undue alarm.

Although you would never know it from the column, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study, which cited of blood lead levels in North Dakota hunters, validates what hunters have always known: Consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition containing lead does not pose a human health risk.

The average lead level of the hunters tested was actually lower than the blood lead level of the average American, including nonhunters. The average lead level of children in the study was only 0.88 micrograms per deciliter of blood. The CDC's level of concern for lead in children is 10, more than 10 times the amount found! The difference between participants who ate wild game harvested with traditional ammunition and nonhunters was only 0.3 micrograms, a clinically insignificant number.

Regardless of the findings of any study, hunters know it is important to remove and properly discard all shot-damaged meat before processing or cooking.

To re-phrase Ms. Farr's column, we would say the science regarding lead is clear: Consuming game taken with lead ammunition is safe. Lead is a manageable health issue given standard hunter practice, not a political one. Think using lead bullets for hunting is safe? It is.

Lawrence G. Keane

Newtown, CT

Lawrence Keane is the senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Peggy Farr responds: In 2008, the CDC studied blood lead levels in 738 North Dakotans to see if there might be a link between human consumption of wild game killed with lead ammunition and higher blood lead levels. There is. In general, North Dakotans had lead levels lower than the average American. However, since this is a study based in North Dakota, that doesn't matter. The study found that North Dakotans who ate wild game taken with lead tended to have higher lead levels than North Dakotans who did not. Moreover, the more recent the consumption of such game, the higher the blood lead levels.

The NSSF claims difference in blood lead levels in North Dakotans who ate game taken with lead (0.3 micrograms) is insignificant. However, this number represents a 34 percent elevation in lead levels.

In 2012 the CDC tightened its lead standard for children from 10 mcg/dl down to 5 mcg/dl. That doesn't mean levels up to 5 mcg/dl are considered safe.

The CDC states: "No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected. The most important step ... is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs."

Lead is not considered safe for adults, either. Multiple health organizations have stated that lead should be eliminated from our lives whenever possible. Choosing a different bullet seems like a pretty easy solution!