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 Plosone.org 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.


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