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‘Much to do about nothing’

‘Much to do about nothing’

by Ian Summerell

John Swift came to the DI meeting and reported the findings of a Norwegian report. People who eat lead shot game meat had higher lead level than people who don’t. I cannot accuse John Swift of lying but I make the accusation that he was misleading and disingenuous in his reporting.

The new report from Norway is the “Consumption of lead-shot cervid meat and blood lead concentrations in groups of adult Norwegians.” Meltzer et al (2013)

The Abstract of the report states: Several recent investigations have reported high concentrations of lead in samples of minced cervid meat. This paper describes findings from a Norwegian study performed in 2012 among 147 adults with a wide range of cervid game consumption. The main aim was to assess whether high consumption of lead-shot cervid meat is associated with increased concentration of lead in blood. A second aim was to investigate to what extent factors apart from game consumption explain observed variability in blood lead levels.  Median (5and95percentile) blood concentration of lead was 16.6 mg/L (7.5and39 mg/L). An optimal multivariate linear regression model for log-transformed blood lead indicated that cervid game meat consumption once a month or more was associated with approximately 31% in crease in blood lead concentrations. The increase seemed to be mostly associated with consumption of minced cervid meat, particularly purchased minced meat. However, many participants with high and long-lasting game meat intake had low blood lead concentrations. Cervid meat together with number of bullet shots per year, years with game consumption, self-assembly of bullets, wine consumption and smoking jointly accounted for approximately 25% of the variation in blood lead concentrations, while age and sex accounted for 27% of the variance. Blood lead concentrations increased approximately 18% per decade of age, and men had on average 30% higher blood lead concentrations than women. Hunters who assembled their own ammunition had 52% higher blood lead concentrations than persons not making ammunition. In conjunction with minced cervid meat, wine intake was significantly associated with increased blood lead. Our results indicate that hunting practices such as use of lead based ammunition, self-assembling of lead containing bullets and inclusion of lead-contaminated meat for mincing to a large extent determine the exposure to lead from cervid game consumption.

After reading this you may be thinking that hunters that eat lead shot game are doomed! I believe this is no more than scare mongering, we had the scare in fresh chickens last week and soon we may see a report in the shooting press reporting the high levels of lead in game meat is dangerous and reporting the findings in the Norwegian study.

The Norwegian study had no control group.

The average BLL at 19.3 ug/l in the Norwegian Study was below other EU studies at 20-30ug/l.

I would point out that this study shows that Norwegian hunters who eat lead shot game have lower BLL than the EU average.

We are told that lead is toxic. They banned lead for wildfowling, they now want to have a total lead ban for all shooting. That is the aim of the WWT and RSPB, the WWT reported this in a BBC news report and the RSPB have reported their intent on their web site.

Oh, they say, they’ve removed lead from paint, lead from pencils and lead from petrol.

Lets look at this a little closer, over the years we have been told that lead is toxic, CO2 is the cause of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) and carrots help you see in the dark.

I do not intend to go into detail of CO2 but we have been told that CO2 is the cause of global warming were as in fact NASA tells us that there has been no global warming for over 15 years. I believe this was to create a market for CO2 and alternative energy systems.

They haven’t removed the lead from the inside of pencils. Lead wasn’t put into the graphite, it was in the paint on the outside of the pencils.

The wartime propaganda told the British public that carrots helped you see in the dark. This was to make the Germans think RAF pilots ate carrots to see in the dark, to hide the fact that we had radar.

That brings back to TOXIC lead. Lead is toxic in high concentrations and the lead they put into paint and petrol was not the lead we use for shooting. The lead we use in shooting is solid lead and may have a little bit of antimony in it to make it harder.

 Lead in petrol was not solid lead, in was Tetraethyl lead and it had a chemical formula of (CH3CH2)4 Pb. Researching this article I found a web site reporting that the level of lead in the air reduced year on year from 1920 but when Tetraethyl lead was removed from petrol it started to go up year on year. The theory is that the Tetraethyl lead in petrol combined with the lead in the air and fell to the ground.

Lead in paint was white and red lead, white lead is lead carbonate or lead sulphate, and red lead is lead tetroxide. White lead was the main white lead pigment used in some paints. Red lead was used in metal paint and primer coatings.

The lead used in shot and bullets is not toxic in its solid state and is very stable. Now lets look at the Norwegian report, they report hunters that eat lead shot game meat having higher levels of lead in their blood than people who do not. This may be true but how toxic is the level they have?

We know the human body needs trace elements of metals and minerals. You need Iron and Zinc. You also have trace elements of silver and lead. I’m told we also need trace elements of Arsenic! It is said that the phrase born with a silver spoon, was because people that used silver cups for wine and drinks had trace elements of silver in the blood helping to fight off diseases.

Question, do we also need a trace element of lead in our blood? I do not know the answer.

How much lead did the Norwegian hunters have in their blood?

The Norwegian report says that an average of 22.3ug/l lead was found in the blood of hunters that eat lead shot game meat.

That was higher then people who did not eat lead shot game meat.

How toxic is 22.3 ug/l of lead in the blood?

ug refers to micrograms and L is litres, so there is 22.3 micrograms of lead in every litre of blood. To put this into prospective the average is a trace element of a really very small tiny amount of only 0.0000223 grams of lead per litre of blood.

That is the claim and we are being told that we should reduce that lead level. John Swift told the DI back in 2010 that there is lead in the food chain and we have to find ways to reduce it.

What is the safe level of lead in blood?

I work with lead in the workshop and Health and Safety tell me that the max level of lead in my blood should be not more than 600ug/l, at that level I have to stop working with lead. At 500ug/l I have to see a doctor. That is 0.000600 grams per litre of Blood.

If I read the American study Schafer (2005) correctly, the blood lead levels in the general population are expected to be around 15 μg/dL.,15 ug/dl is 150 ug/l. That is why at the end of the Norwegian report, that an average of 22.3ug/l in hunters eating lead shot game is lower than the average American at 150ug/l, comes to the clear conclusion that “the risk at an individual level is low or negligible.”

So all this hype about higher lead levels in people who eat lead shot game is no more than scare mongering. This article is headed, ‘much to do about nothing’ or are we to believe the hype that lead shot game is toxic, my conclusion is that it is “much to do about nothing!”  

Potential hazard from very bad so-called scientific research

 Potential hazard from very bad so-called scientific research

By Ian Summerell


I was told by BASC staff that one paper of the WWT proved that lead shot contaminates meat, the report they where referring to was the “Potential Hazard to Human Health from Exposure to Fragments of Lead Bullets and Shot in the Tissues of Game Animals” which I found on the website, after read it, I found a few thing wrong with this research and I will point them out below.

Link to WWT report:

I will start by looking at the methods used by the WWT to test for lead in game meat. I add the text from the report explaining how they prepared and cooked the meat for testing.

Extract from the report Materials and Methods:

For each species, the sample of birds was divided into two groups. An attempt was made to match the groups in terms of the distribution of the numbers of embedded shot visible on X-rays. The birds were then prepared to simulate realistic exposure of humans to lead by consumption of cooked meat. Typical cooking recipes for each species were identified through an internet search (Text S1).

Two cooking recipes were selected for each species: one likely to result in approximately neutral pH, e.g. roasting or stewing with a water or cream-based sauce, and one likely to be more acidic, e.g. involving wine or cider. We call these ‘‘non-acidic’’ and ‘‘acidic’’ recipes, although the pH of the liquid around the bird was not recorded. One group of birds was cooked using each recipe.

Chicken breast muscle (from a supermarket) was used as a control for each species and cooking recipe. Once cooked, any apparently whole gunshot or large fragments of gunshot that could have been detected by the consumer (i.e. $half a shotgun pellet), were removed by dissection and stored, and the cooked meat was separated from the skeleton. Meat and sauce samples were homogenised separately using a hand blender, weighed and oven dried at 20°C to constant weight.

The WWT paper does not report the lead concentrate of the cream-based sauce, wine or cider. There must be a natural lead content within the ingredients however small, a quick search on the web I found some interesting facts about lead in wine and cider. I could not find any lead content for cream-based sauce.

In the Lane and Lawrence report in 1961 they report that lead levels in cider and wine, showed that cider contained 5.95mg/l [5950ug/l] considerably less lead than home-made wine 120 mg/l [120,000ug/l].

A case study in Australia of a man with lead poisoning from drinking home-made red wine:

A 66-year-old man suffered the symptoms of severe lead poisoning for 2 years before diagnosis. The man had a blood lead level (PbB) on admission to hospital of 98 microg/dL [980ug/l]. A detailed investigation revealed that the poisoning occurred as a result of drinking a homemade red wine, for which analyses showed a lead concentration up to 14 mg/L [14000ug/l]–70 times the Australian maximum limit for lead in wine.”

Dr George Baker in the 1760’s put forward the hypothesis that the lead in cider was to blame for the poisoning and the cause of the ‘Devon Colic’.

So we now know that wine and cider contain lead and this should have been accounted for in the WWT report. In my view the adding of wine or cider to the meat recipes has contaminated the results.

Now lets look at the Xray of the pigeon in the WWT report. “Small radio-dense particles, presumed to be metallic fragments derived from shotgun pellets”. They state clearly that they believe the fragment to be metallic. They claim that these fragments are from shotgun pellets. How can they claim that they are ‘presumed to be’ there are or are not, lead.

I was trained by the Department of the Environment to read X-rays and have over 40 years experience pigeon shooting. In my opinion the fragments circled on the X-ray below are not lead. When you shoot a bird with lead shot the shot normally flattens when it hits bone but I have never seen lead shot pellets fragment in the bird.

When you shoot the bird out of the sky it can break wings and legs when in hits the ground. I would say that the fragments circled on the X-ray are bone not lead. In my opinion the four round lead shot pellets can be seen clearly on the X-ray, the one on the bottom left has a flat on one side of it, the fragments in the circle top right of the X-ray look to be to be broken bone.


Figure 1. X-ray of a woodpigeon illustrating four gunshot and numerous small radio-dense fragments. Radio-dense fragments may

trace the passage of shot through the bird; some fragments are close to bone suggesting fragmentation on impact, others are not.


Small radio-dense particles, presumed to be metallic fragments derived from shotgun pellets, were observed on X-rays of 76% of birds (Table 2: species range 65–85%). The majority of fragments

found were very tiny (i.e. less than about a tenth of a shot in size) and both too small and too scattered to be detected or removed by a consumer (e.g., Figure 1). The proportion of birds with shotgun

pellets, small fragments or both visible was 87%. The majority (60%) of birds with no shotgun pellets visible on the X-ray had small radio-dense fragments. The small radio-dense particles sometimes appeared to follow the track taken by a shotgun pellet during passage through a bird, were sometimes clustered around bone (Figure 1), but sometimes appeared to be scattered throughout the bird.

In Table 6 of the WWT report looks at their results of lead in cooked meat,

Lead in cooked meat (ppb ww)

Red Grouse      Mallard            Partridge          Pheasant           Woodpigeon    Woocock

1165                593                  1120                980                  433                  3410

The results shown in table 6 of the WWT report give the parts per billion of lead in the wet weight of the cooked meat recipes. What is the lead level within the Wine and Cider?

In a report in the USA for the Environmental Protection Agency they tested US wines and imported wine. They found that US wine had an average of 58 ppm of lead in poured class of wine and imports had an average of 195 ppb. In the same study they found that apples had 30 ppb, cooked French fries 60 ppb, canned tuna 167 ppb and canned fruit cocktail 180 ppb.

The WWT report is being used by the Lead Ammunition Group to try and prove that there is a potential hazard to human health from eating lead shot game meat. This so-called scientific paper and research cannot be relied on and we now have a potential hazard from bad scientific reporting on shooting and the sale of game in the UK.