Lead Week, 22 #Pbweekmia

This is Lead Week on this blog.

800px-7.5_CartridgesHere’s a summary of points made by this blog, this week, on the subject of lead in food. I spent a considerable chunk of my life as a scientist so I am reasonably happy reading the scientific evidence on this subject although some of it is certainly unfamiliar territory to me.  So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I have written so much about lead in food this week – what if I slipped up and got it wrong? But nothing written here has been seriously challenged through the week on any factual basis.  There’s been a bit of sniping by shooting interests but that’s been it really.



Lead is a poison.

We have removed lead from paints, water pipes, fishing weights, and most significantly from petrol.  All of these changes were opposed by vested interests at the time and no-one is asking for those changes to be reversed these days (see here, here, here, here)

There is amazingly good evidence that removing lead from the environment reduces aggression in human societies (see also here, here, here).

Young children and foetuses are particularly susceptible to the impacts of lead (here, here).

Symptoms of high lead levels are various.

Consumption of one game meat meal per fortnight (of small game such as pheasants, grouse, pigeons, partridges, shot with lead shot) will reduce child IQ by 1 point.

The Food Standards Agency describe ‘occasional consumption of lead-shot game birds’ that would have minimal effect on overall exposure to lead as being ‘about twice a year’ (see here and here).

Ingestion of spent lead ammunition poisons c73,000 wildfowl in the UK each winter and it’s not a nice way to go.

An expert group, whose existence is partly down to me when I worked at the RSPB, and on which I sat until I left the RSPB, has produced a report whose findings have been in the public domain for months, even though Defra is mysteriously sitting on the actual report. The findings of that group recommend that lead ammunition should be phased out as:

  • Safer alternatives to lead ammunition are now available and being improved and adapted all the time for use in different shooting disciplines. There is considerable experience from other countries where change has already been undertaken.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that a phase out of lead ammunition and the use of alternatives would have significant drawbacks for wildlife or human health or, at least, none that carry the same scale of risks as continuing use of lead; though there are procedural, technical and R&D issues still to work on and resolve.
  • There is no convincing evidence on which to conclude that other options, short of replacement of lead ammunition, will address known risks to human health, especially child health

The UK government agreed at an international meeting in Quito in autumn 2014 to phase out the use of lead ammunition in three years – and has, as yet, not done a thing.

Countries such as Denmark banned the use of lead ammunition a couple of decades ago – shooters wouldn’t want it back.

There are no real problems for shooters in switching to ammunition which is non-toxic and which avoids all these harmful impacts.


2. Game meat on sale to the public has high levels of lead

iceland-food-you-can-trust-copyPrevious studies, including in the UK, have shown that game meat shot with lead ammunition (bullets or pellets) have high lead levels. These are caused by tiny fragments of lead coming off the ammunition as it passes through the flesh of the shot mammal or bird and distributing themselves widely in the meat. Removing the lead pellets from a shot Pheasant, partridge, grouse etc does not remove the high lead levels – leaving them in would have increased the lead levels measured in previous studies and in this one.

Adopting one meal a week of lead-shot game such as Pheasants, partridge or grouse will increase the average person’s dietary lead intake about seven-fold. This increase is enough to increase blood pressure, the risk of chronic kidney disease, the risk of spontaneous abortion and to reduce the IQ of children.  There are tens of thousands of adults who eat more than one lead-shot game meal a week and in their families so will many children. The shooting industry promotes game as a healthy option and does not highlight the health risks of lead. Supermarkets are selling game meat in their stores and are not highlighting the health risks of lead.

iceland-2-copyTo highlight these issues, which are well known to the game shooting industry, and well documented in science, I purchased 40 frozen Red Grouse from Iceland Foods stores.  Iceland’s boss, Malcolm Walker, is a keen shooter and Iceland had announced that they would start selling frozen grouse back in the summer.  I contacted Iceland back then and pointed out the fact that they were likely to be selling meat to the public with high lead levels (and that there were other issues about the sustainability of grouse meat production). Iceland Foods produced what I consider a misleading and complacent information sheet on their website but did not reply directly to my comments.

Pb shot grouse 1So I became a customer of Iceland Foods and bought some of their Red Grouse meat and got it tested for lead levels.  The measured lead levels were high – some were very very high – and were in line with previous studies (though on the higher side). More than three quarters of the lead levels measured in Iceland Foods’ grouse meat would have been illegal if found in beef, pork, chicken etc where there is a level set (Maximum Reside Level) above which meat is illegal.  Over a third of the grouse meat samples contained ten times the MRL for lead. Two samples contained very very high lead levels: one of 168 times the MRL and the other of 3699 times the MRL.  Overall, the lead levels in these 40 samples of grouse meat were 100 times the MRL.

Iceland Foods has not responded to my questions on why they sold this grouse meat and whether they intend to continue to sell grouse meat with very high lead levels.

Other supermarkets have responded and have said they will look into the issue. They should not have to look very far as they should already know about it. The results of the tests of these 40 Red Grouse are in line with previous studies and would be expected to be similar for other game meat such as Pheasant, partridge, duck and Woodpigeon.  If supermarkets selling game meat do not respond with their views on the subject then I will name and shame them on this blog. If they do respond, then I will post their responses.


3. The report of the Lead Ammunition Group

The matters discussed in this blog will have been reviewed and discussed in the report of the Lead Ammunition Group which spent five years (rather too long!) looking at human health and wildlife health issues of the use of lead ammunition. That report was sent to Defra eight months ago and has not been published by Defra. The long delay in publication is scandalous.

The Lead Ammunition Group should consider putting their full report in the public domain themselves and shaming Defra for keeping their report secret.  The findings of that report are publicly available, but not the evidence review on which they are based.  The publicly available list of findings ends with this one:

There is no convincing evidence on which to conclude that other options, short of replacement of lead ammunition, will address known risks to human health, especially child health.
4. Government inaction
Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons
Why has Liz Truss not published the LAG report? Why has Liz Truss not acted on the recommendations of the LAG report? Photo: Policy exchange via wikimedia commons


Liz Truss talks a lot about science and evidence bases but has kept secret the LAG report for very nearly eight months.  The LAG report should be published immediately, in fact it should have been published last summer.

The government response to the LAG report is also overdue.
Removing the health risks of dietary lead exposure would be incredibly simple and could be achieved by either banning the use of lead ammunition or setting an MRL for lead in game meats on sale to the public. Other countries have done it and so should we.  It really is a no-brainer. Defra is far too close to the shooting industry and is taking far too much notice of it.
Why is government delaying over removing a known health risk?  Especially since it doesn’t involve banning any activity such as shooting, it simply involves requiring shooters to use a safe form of ammunition widely used across the world.
There is no necessity to use lead ammunition and its use is harmful to wildlife and human health. You couldn’t get a simpler decision for any government.
Tell Defra and David Cameron to do the right thing – sign Rob Sheldon’s e-petition to ban toxic lead ammunition.

60 Replies to “Lead Week, 22 #Pbweekmia”

  1. I find it astonishing that an organisation with the words Wildlife and Conservation in its name as in Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (even if it is just spin) can sign a letter to Secretary of State Department of Environment in 2009 that states ‘we stress that the shooting community does not believe that the case for sweeping legislative or regulatory restrictions on the use of lead ammunition has been made. ‘
    That letter had BASC as it’s letterhead (another organization which makes a mockery of the word conservation).
    I wonder if they have changed their policy since then.
    I am puzzled that John Swift who was BASC Chief Executive 1988 – 2013 and who is highly qualified would have supported that letter. Perhaps the science has now become incontrovertible because now he is Chairman of the LAG whose report is gathering dust on Liz Truss’s desk.

  2. Section one: “Consumption of one game meat meal per fortnight (of small game such as pheasants, grouse, pigeons, partridges, shot with lead shot) will reduce child IQ by 1 point.”

    This is scientifically incorrect, the study states:

    “We found the consumption of <1 meal of game a week may be associated with a one point reduction in IQ in children”

    “may” not “will” – given your own comment on your scientific background, the difference should be obvious.

    I have already pointed out to you that the studies used all refer to a theoretical risk through potential ingestion (which may well be offset by common behavioural adaptations) and that there are no recorded studies showing dangerous levels of lead in actual blood sampling of game meat eaters.

    I have no doubt that you might point to Green and Pain, but even they point out that There appear to be no published studies in which B-Pb was related to ingestion rates of ammunition-derived lead in children.

    You also comment that there is no agreed safe level of exposure, however I’m sure you will agree that the ‘absence of agreement’ is not the same as there being no science, I would point you to “Do low levels of lead produce IQ loss in children? A careful examination of the literature.” Kaufman 2001

    1. Kie – you are trying very hard but you are getting nowhere.

      And the difference between ‘less than one’ and ‘one’ should be obvious too. But have you actually read the paper or have you just looked at the summary? I based my statement on Table 4 – the two bottom lines of Table 4. You’ll see that I was conservative in what I wrote. Have you actually read the paper?

      You appear not to believe that lead is a problem at all – or have I got that wrong? Maybe you could tell me why we should continue to use lead ammunition?

      You’ll be asking for blood lead levels from Lancashire gamekeepers’ children taken on a Thursday night in a month when there isn’t an ‘r’ in the month next. Just asking for more and more specific detail – when you don’t appear to accept any of the existing detail, is just mucking about, isn’t it?

      There used to be an agreed safe level of lead, up until a few years ago, but advances in science mean that no-one will now even say that any level of lead is ‘safe’ – except BASC it seems. There is not absence of agreement on lead being a problem as I guess we will see when Defra stops suppressing the LAG report, won’t we?

      1. “when you don’t appear to accept any of the existing detail, is just mucking about, isn’t it?”

        Let me try and repeat this in simplistic terms:

        The theoretical and modelled risks (technically we are actually discussing threat rather than risk) of exposure in the ‘food’ studies have not been replicated in the ‘blood’ studies of those that are supposedly ‘at risk’. Even the Norwegian research to which you have previously pointed (which caveats its own findings by including “hunting practices” like shooting and ammunition reloading as part of its risk factor in addition to meat consumption) reveals no consistent association between game meat consumption and higher blood lead levels, let alone any evidence of clinical effect.

        “There used to be an agreed safe level of lead, up until a few years ago, but advances in science mean that no-one will now even say that any level of lead is ‘safe'”

        No, thats not the situation, you were correct in your earlier statement, that there is no “agreed” safe level, a number of researchers point to different levels, and a number of researchers point to none, its is simply incorrect to state that “no-one will now even say that any level of lead is ‘safe'” as there are numerous studies pointing to a nonlinear dose reaction (Pb Hormesis)

        US-CDC use a reference level of 50 µg/l to identify children with blood lead levels outside the 97.5th %ile, (they used to use a figure of 10 µg/l as a ‘level of concern)’ – By way of comparison, the recorded lead level in the children of swedish hunters was 11.7 μg/l

        in adults, US NIOSH use an occupational monitor level of 250 µg/l (again ten times higher than the highest mean levels recorded in the Norwegian blood monitoring, and nearly twenty times the mean levels in the Minnesota game eaters blood studies)

        In other words, to cut to the chase, Mark, its all scaremongering bullshit! (a technical term I learned in over a decade of toxicology research – sorry mate, you really are out of your depth here!)

        There is, supposedly, no “threshold” for the potential ill effects of eating processed meat products either – however it is beyond challenge that in none of the studies discussed put lead exposure through dietary consumption in anything approaching the orders of magnitude that are accepted as safe in industrial exposure.

        Given your, apparently genuine (cough!) concern here is supposedly food safety rather than just looking for a tenuous link to desperately find something to ban that relates to shooting, I will look forward with trepidation to your ‘ban the bacon’ e-petition…

        1. kie – you have avoided this question ‘Maybe you could tell me why we should continue to use lead ammunition?’. Do you sit next to Andrew Gilruth by any chance? he always attempts to pick at nits and never answers a question in return.

          You ought to address your ‘scaremongering bullshit’ accusation against the Food Standards Agency, not me. I won’t repeat their advice as it’s been here many times – you disagree with it? The trajectory of advice is solidly towards reducing lead ingestion rates from any sources – and game meat is a major source of dietary lead – agreed?

          The 97.5%ile is hardly relevent, as you must know, if an even smaller number have the very highest lead levels – but that doesn’t mean that any higher level is a good thing, does it? Or would you claim it does? Are you claiming that the 23% of BASC members and their families who eat lead-shot game meat more than once a week (excl venison) are suffering no harmful affects? What are you saying exactly?

          There are seven questions above – have ago at answering them rather than swerving them, please.

          I guess you meant simple terms rather than simplistic terms – but you succeeded doing the latter, ‘treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are’.

          1. “and game meat is a major source of dietary lead – agreed?”

            No, since the data on frequent consumption of game meat as a causative factor in increased levels of lead in the bloodstream was inconsistent, as was clear from the Norwegian study.

          2. “Are you claiming that the 23% of BASC members and their families who eat lead-shot game meat more than once a week (excl venison) are suffering no harmful affects?”

            There is no reported data to suggest that they are

            There are a number of studies that show that the potential is there based on modelling of lead content in food, but no studies showing either:
            i) harm through lead levels from ingestion of game (rather than alternative correlated exposure factors through sex, age, smoking, red wine consumption, shooting sports, reloading of lead ammunition etc.)
            ii) any detectable clinical risk from the exposure levels recorded in game meat eaters (difference here between population scale risk and clinical scale risk, which is a complex discussion about weaknesses in LNT exposure modelling)

          3. kie – not, clearly, an answer to the question asked. Nuff said.

            Do you sit next to Andrew Gilruth and did you learn evasion from him/ Or did you teach him?

            Why should we continue to use lead ammunition? Try that one – it ought to be relatively easy. There is evidence of harm and there is a safe alternative – what is your answer to the question? Let’s try to nail it shall we?

          4. “Why should we continue to use lead ammunition? Try that one – it ought to be relatively easy. There is evidence of harm and there is a safe alternative – what is your answer to the question? Let’s try to nail it shall we?”

            Because it’s a rubbish argument – Cars can be dangerous, so we will ban all cars and ride bikes (safe alternative). alcoholism causes harm, so we will ban all alcohol and drink water (safe alternative) some Muslims are terrorists, so ban Muslims andonly permit Quakers into the country (safe alternative)

            It’s an utterley brain dead argument you are making.

          5. Kie – at last you accept that there is evidence of harm.

            The safe alternative to lead ammunition is non-toxic ammunition. What’s wrong with it? I can tell you why I won’t be cycling to Wellingborough station later today but will drive instead, tell me how use of non-toxic ammunition is such a disadvantage. And your answer should try to explain why over 100,000 Danish shooters switched to non-toxic ammunition two decades ago and wouldn’t touch lead again even if given the chance, please.

            Your argument would be better applied to the wearing of seat belts (although there is a crucial difference too). Banning lead ammunition doesn’t ban shooting, it makes it safer for society. Driving does have risks, and we moved to minimise one class of those risks by requiring people to wear a seat belt. This was opposed as a huge loss of liberty (and as being dangerous in itself) by people using somewhat similar arguments to yours. We didn’t ban driving; we made it safer. No-one is planning to ban shooting (not me anyway, and not through this route) but requiring a switch to non-toxic ammunition makes it safer.

            There are of course, differences. First, not wearing a seat belt makes the non-wearer less safe whereas using lead shot makes other people less safe if they eat game meat, and poses risks to wildlife too. Switching from lead shot requires more recognition of one’s duty to others in society than does wearing a seat belt. Your argument would have presumably been ‘Yes there is lots of evidence that not wearing a seat belt causes injuries but I haven’t seen evidence from cars driving down my particular roads under my particular driving conditions so I want more before I will reduce risks’? Or you might have used the civil liberty argument which was used at the time ‘We should all be allowed to make our own choice on this matter’? Are you campaigning to make the wearing of sear belts voluntary? Of course, we know that the shooting community regard laws over lead shot as being voluntary anyway as the level of non-compliance detected is high. And crucially, use of lead shot is not a matter of the shooter’s safety alone – it is a matter of harm to all of us through damage to the environment and through the eating of lead-shot game meat.

        2. Kie – could you point me to the peer-reviewed toxicology papers you’ve got published during your ‘decade of toxicology research’? You’ve made some interesting points and I’m just intrigued to know about more about your credentials. Thanks.

          1. The joys of animal rights violence means that I would rather stay anonymous thanks (in all seriousness that, having had my former bosses head stoved in)

          2. Kie – can I assume you’ve not actually published any peer-reviewed papers yourself, i.e. you’re a back-room lab technician. That’s not intended to be pejorative – the real work we see in published papers is often done by lab technicians without credit! But it would be good to know if you base your assertions of work you’ve had published and reviewed by other scientists. If you have published anything from your ‘decade of toxicology research’ it’ll be in the public domain anyway.

    2. Kie, would you please explain why you think lead was removed from water pipes, petrol and paint.

      1. happily

        the levels of recorded exposure due to these sources were orders of magnitude above the levels of exposure that may be connected to the consumption of game meat, as shown in the blood research


  3. Gee thanks Kie; its attitudes like yours that lead to the sickness and death of thousands of wildfowl. I personally don’t care if game-eaters are poisoned, but it may explain why some gamekeepers are aggressive and just like killing things. Anyone who tries using scientific dialogue but has a pen-name will be thought a bull-shutter. Your stuff is verging on ‘drunken rant’. Unbelievably irresponsible of you – just go away.

    1. The likes of such types surely encourage us even more to ensure the profile of such “simples” are raised and exposed for what they are?

      Rabid animals are dangerous when cornered, or maybe it’s when intoxicated by lead?

  4. If I knew that there was the chance that consuming meat contaminated with lead damaged my children, then do you think I would feed it to them? When there are safe alternatives? Of course not.
    I’m no expert but I know there has been a lot of research, especially in America, that links exposure to increased aggression and anti-social behaviour in children. But it would be interesting to see if children here, who eat game regularly, have raised blood lead levels. Why doesn’t BASC or the Gamekeepers Association commission some research? Or don’t they want to know?

    1. “If I knew that there was the chance that consuming meat contaminated with lead damaged my children, then do you think I would feed it to them? When there are safe alternatives”

      Do you feed them red meat? Nuts? Eggs? Soft cheeses? Fruit?
      All these things Carry the chance of damaging your children – quick, ban them.

      How about processed meats (sausages, bacon, choritzo)?
      Health advice is clear that there is “no agreed safe level” of processed meats, ban them too?

      Coffee? Alcohol (“there is no level of regular drinking that can be considered as completely safe” UK chief medical officers advice) – ban them too?

      Unfortunately, the argument that Mark is trying to use (ban this filth, it’s dangerous) fails because, just like calls to ban sausages, bacon or alcohol on the basis of unquantifiable risk, it’s utter nonsense.

      1. Kie – not unquantified – see Green and Pain 2012 – it’s just that you won’t accept the quantification published in a referreed scientific journal in the field of toxicology because… Well, we don’t know why, but your attempted explanations of why are poor. It appears that you would quibble with any study on this subject that doesn’t suit what appears to be your prior position, that lead shot should not be banned.

      2. Kie – many thanks for your comments – you illustrate just how specialist and complex human health toxicology is – and the importance of reviewing all available evidence. Best. Andrew

        1. Andrew – you seem to have overlooked this comment from me: Andrew – as you may have noticed, the FSA advice is that there is no agreed safe level of lead.

          But then again, although the scope of GWCT scientists is rather narrow, I notice that the WWT and RSPB do have scientists who have published in peer-reviewed toxicology journals. They wouldn’t be toxicologists, but their work in the field has passed the same standards as those who are. Quite impressive eh?

          One of these papers is the one by Green and Pain (2012) which you are continually avoiding in these comments. I’ve mentioned it a few times but it keeps slipping your mind, it seems. We’ll take it that you agree with it and its finding that switching to one lead-shot game meal of meat a week increases dietary lead intake for a typical consumer by around seven fold? And that this has real impacts on the consumer’s blood pressure, risk of chronic kidney disease, risk of spontaneous abortion in women and on the IQ of young children. Published science that demonstrates the health risk of eating game meat shot with lead when the people who pay your wages could simply switch to non-toxic ammunition and remove that risk altogether.

          Why won’t GWCT members support a switch to non-toxic ammunition? I don’t think you’ve told us? And I don’t think you have disagreed with Green and Pain either, have you?

      3. kie – ‘A one point IQ reduction in children is expected from 0.4–0.7 weekly gamebird meals.’

  5. Could the reason be that the Gubmint fail to act on lead in game is that they can’t, evidence or not? The EC, that tata di tutte le bambinaie, rules us and it doesn’t regulate lead in game so I guess we can’t nor neither because we gave away the ability to make our own laws ages ago.

    A few minutes poking around the Information Superhighway reveals what a complicated bizniz is the regulation of nasty things. Also the relative irrelevance of artificial constructs like MRLs. Another artifice, Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI), may be more appropriate as it refers to the daily amount of a potential toxin from all foods that has been assessed safe for humans on a long-term basis or their whole lifetime whichever is sooner. But as it is assessed most often on mice the extrapolation to humans is a bit iffy to say the least. Especially when you consider the downwards fudge factor (or uncertainty, to make it sound sciency) of a hundred times lower dose than the dose causing no observable adverse effect in the most sensitive of mices and then the upwards fudge factor assuming an unfeasibly large total daily intake of including half a kilo of meat forever. TDI, ADI, MRL values should be considered administrative tools to allow the Lebensmittelstandards Polizei to set allowable limits for stuff offered for sale, rather than scientific measures that measure nastiness.

    Then there’s IQ. What is IQ when it’s at home other than a predictor of success in the educational system of a particular culture and can it be measured objectively with confidence intervals and all that there to inform us of the significance of a one point drop? Will the kid end up with a negative IQ? Or is it just pseudoscience like many people assert? Wasn’t there a lot of fuss about that 11-plus? I must say I’ve never been called on to fit a bunch of triangles into a rhombus since.

    In the case of lead, the nasty stuff is so ubiquitous in soils that it’s unavoidable – in legumes, cereals, pulses, potatoes, rice, leaf vegetables, fresh herbs, fungi, seaweed, top fruit, soft fruit, fruit juice, honey, fats, oils, meat, milk, wine, beer, cider, food supplements and anything else that can be farmed, brewed, manufactured and sold following some form of Best Practice protocol. The MRLs for veggy stuff are often double the amount for meat so vegans and veggies and part-time virtue-signalling enthusiasts can’t feel smug especially considering the vast amount of fresh weight they have to consume – it might be safer to eat meat. Even in a “normal” diet in the UK 95% of the weekly lead intake comes from non-meat sources (as calculated by Pain et al, PLOS One (2010), so it must be true). It’s a very good idea not to eat too much food. And even less of foods that almost certainly contain lead. Or cadmium, chromium, mercury, arsenic, copper or zinc. Or all of them together. So don’t eat it if it worries you – it’s your choice.

    Banning lead ammo altogether really is a no-brainer but calling on the human health appeal and hand-wringing about the children just muddies the water and creates the opportunity for further delay and obfuscation. About 30,000 people a year die prematurely in the UK from air pollution including diesel particulates but the Gubmint isn’t going to do anything about that even with all those actual, not estimated, modelled or projected bodies to dispose of. Neither is there much utility in smearing retailers on a single issue when almost everything they sell has an association with some hazardous substance or other.

    How much easier it would be to extend the span of existing law beyond wetlands – but that would still need policing, and we know how effective that is. How about amending the definitions of contaminated land (if indeed necessary) beyond past uses of sites such as former factories, mines, steelworks, refineries and landfills to include clay shooting sites certainly and any other shooting land depending on lead analysis. The effect of inclusion on the contaminated land register would have an effect on land values that would send all the nobheads crying to their mothers and possibly destroy shooting at a stroke without a shot being fired. Alphonse Capone was a thoroughly nasty chap, who died in prison while serving time for tax evasion, not murder and extortion.

    We’ve had the EPA since 1990, FFS!

    1. filbert – no, my understanding is that we could ban lead ammunition on our own. And ‘we’ in this case would be England, or Wales, or Scotland, or Northern Ireland or any combination of them.

      There used to be something similar to a TDI for lead – but there isn’t now because the evidence of harm is now stronger (as I understand it but I could be wrong and would be happy to be corrected if wrong).

  6. Putting aside other valid reasons for controlling lead ammunition – the discussion between Kie and Mark was most enjoyable. I would add two comments – links between dietary consumption of lead and lead in the blood are very weak – the spike in blood lead happens quickly and then it reduces as lead is quickly absorbed and finds it’s way to other tissues – bone marrow is suggested as a good place to sample.

    Kie is right to challenge you on your language Mark. You have a responsibility to not exaggerate potential links to proven links. And I think it is fair to ask fir some perspective on the relative risks of eating game shot with lead compared to other risks, I expect for children it is relatively low.If Kie wont I will say I think Debbie and Rhys are not human health and diet experts at all. The FSA need to be careful on this, as Kie says, legal challenges on relative risks will follow if they act hastily.

    Now Mark I agree – to reduce all risk we could just use steel ( as it works, I got a lovely flight of gaddies, shoveler and teal at the weekend all on steel). But this is not the point on which you are lobbying.

    1. Tom – so glad that you enjoy it.

      Your mate kie, rumoured to be a toxicologist but who knows, keeps ignoring a published paper in a toxicology journal. He doesn’t say Green and Pain is wrong, he simply jibes at the paper because a couple of scientists whose expertise is mainly from other disciplines have published in a refereed journal and he doesn’t like the findings of that paper. Of what relevance is the background of the authors of the paper when it has got through the referreeing process? If the identity of the author is so importaqnt we can discount any comments here from kie because he i (or she) is anonymous. It’s not a very edifying line of argument from him (or her – but I’d bet strongly on ‘him’)/

      Kie does not say that the published paper is wrong. He (or she) says that it’s all very complicated. At some stage when the evidence has led you to the perfectly reasonable expectation that harm will be caused by a course of action those denying it need to prove that it won’t happen. It’s too easy to keep saying in more and more contrived manner ‘Ah, but what if…?’.

      And no-one has yet answered the question ‘Why should we continue to use lad ammunition?’. You, yourself don’t use it, you tell us, and nor do 150,000 or so Danish shooters. Why does anyone want to when its safety is not assured and the evidence for harm is strong?

      1. “what relevance is the background of the authors”

        Not much – it’s what they have to say that counts. Unfortunately for the public at large, who are the people who pay for the policy that may flow from evidence, the refereeing process (or Pal Review as it is sometimes called) and the funding processes are less than perfect. Nullius in verba.

        But if you post under a pseudonym and then claim authority it isn’t verifiable – so why do it?

    2. “the spike in blood lead happens quickly and then it reduces as lead is quickly absorbed and finds it’s way to other tissues – bone marrow is suggested as a good place to sample.”

      A fair question – however TK profile of lead indicates a blood level half life of around a month, so the context of blood studies on ‘regular consumers’ pitched at people who eat game meat weekly or monthly (eg Norwegian and Minnesota studies) means they remain robust.

      If I were to pitch a theory behind the differing results between the ‘meat’ studies and ‘blood’ studies it would be that the bioavailability of ‘solid’ lead from ammunition (ie the bodies ability to absorb it) varies massively from other forms of lead ingested (eg lead salts and dissolved lead)

      I’m sure I could design an in Vivo study to prove it one way or another….

  7. Why not just stop shooting animals, whose lives are hard enough anyway? we kill more than enough animals for food, why not go to the shop and buy a bit of one when you’re hungry?The mark of a man is not to kill for fun.

  8. Yes these are valid points Mark. No idea who Kie is, not a “mate” and more or less than you are. Re authors, no at this point I don’t think the authors main work matters, but given the politics it almost certainly will. A more independent study that includes relative risk would help. Mjk, farmed animals dont grow on trees, I replace farmed meat with local low carbon wild meat where possible. That does not mean farmed game. Best wishes, Tom

    1. Tom – and in checking the wording of the paper I quoted, now that I am home again, it says ‘A one point IQ reduction in children is expected from 0.4–0.7 weekly gamebird meals.’ so that is a little weaker than ‘will’ and a lot stronger than ‘may’. There is no scare-mongering from me.

      That summary is actually a little weaker than the table of data suggests that it could be.

    1. kie – yes, this does prove that your argument is feeble. Alcohol is generally the aspect of an alcoholic drink that people want – and it is right that they should know of all the risks and then can decide whether what they get out of alcohol is worth the risks. You’ll struggle to show me someone who eats lead-shot game for the lead (Mmm! Yummy lead!) so why do you want them to have the yummy venison, Pheasant or pigeon with a poison in it rather than without?

      Why should we serve meat with a poison in it when we can easily serve it without the poison? You must be very keen for us all to eat poison since it is so easy to leave it out. Why do you not want the poison taken out?

      1. “Why do you not want the poison taken out?”

        Haven’t been saying at great length that taking the poison out is not feasible?

        Any road up most people drink to escape from the grim reality of having the Chief Medical Occifer round at Theirs for a snifter

      2. Kie – I do find your trenchant defence of lead ammunition a bit baffling. As has been pointed out, there are perfectly feasible alternatives to lead shot available. It doesn’t look great continually resisting the inevitable ban in the face of clear evidences to the harm lead causes to hunan health. OK, adults can choose (assuming they’re given honest information as to lead levels in game meat), but to allow children to eat contaminated game meat is just wrong.

        I also find it strange that you say you’ve published peer-reviewed papers in publicly-available journals but you’re not prepared to cite any of them here, which would (presumably) lend some credibility to your argument.

        Anyway – what’s wrong with banning toxic lead shot when perfectly good alternatives are available?

        1. “you’re not prepared to cite any”

          Because any fool kno that baseball bats can kill and the thugs who lurk outside your house or workplace with them are not to be encouraged

  9. Kie
    Imagine a situation where you have a gun and you don’t know if it is loaded. Would you willingly point this at the head of your own child and pull the trigger? From the data that mark has obtained for the samples from Iceland, if you are a bit unlucky and end up eating a 500g portion of a heavily contaminated sample, you would be consuming 185 mg of lead. That is a lot of lead and remember this is finely divided, not a lump of 185 mg (that is 0.0009 mol or 5.4^20 atoms). Since you nor I know precisely where this ends up in your body, anyone with a grain of common sense would err on caution, which is exactly what the food standards agency does in this case. Except not in this case since it’s game meat.

    Even considering the sparing solubility of lead 2+ compounds or most likely the chloride (roughly 0.04 mol/kg in water and 0.1 mol/kg in 3M NaCl), that would still be a huge number of lead atoms to take into your system from a single grouse meal. Which specific enzymes the lead targets (unknown) and with what affinity (I suspect quite high, especially if they contain sulphur), you can be sure that there is no way that there are enough of these protein molecules to render eating this level of lead on a regular basis to being a harmless pastime.

    1. “if you are a bit unlucky”

      It would indeed be unlucky for the kid to have a gluttonous parent that not only tries to shoot it every mealtime but also shops at Iceland and consumes in the old money one pound one and a half ounces of grouse meat at a sitting and while understanding migs moles and Avocardo’s constant might be thought of as mitigating factors I don’t think so and while considering the cosmic number of atoms potentially absorbed into the glutton’s corpus it must be remembered that a lot of what enters at one end leaves at the other and talking of leaves yesterday Dearly Beloved made me a delicious spanish omelette that almost certainly contained lead in the eggs cheese and patootie and I ate it without a second thought but hesitated for a long time over the rocket and quinoa sprouted salad that might have contained Clostridia whose botulinum might have killed me but I weighed up the impact on Peace and Harmony my leaving this “healthy” but nutritionally insignificant and possibly deadly garnish would have and necked it anyway.

      1. Filbert, what a splendid piece of writing. Let me try to summarise what your are saying: 1) A portion of grouse meat is less than 500 g; 2) Much of what is eaten passes out of the body by various means; and 3) there is lead in everything anyway.

        May I point you back to FSA advice given above. The whole point of what is being argued is that the law, the legal limits of lead in food, set by the FSA, should also apply to game meat.

        As for the science, which it appears that you naively disagree with, yes a portion of grouse might be smaller (say for example 250 g, simply divide all the numbers given above by 2). The number of lead atoms in your body is still massive compared to the total number of protein molecules especially If one lead atom poisoned 1 protein. However many poisons don’t really work like that and lead is quite likely to be pretty non-specific, knocking out some proteins very well but also partitioning itself between various other binding sites. The point is that no-one really knows, so given the documented risks, especially to children, the advice of the FSA seems to me to be fairly robust.

        That there is lead everywhere anyway and you excrete the stuff at a rate which is quite likely to be dependent on the concentration in your own blood, is true. However if you choose to look at an organism (a human in this case) as an equilibrium system, the overall amount of lead in your body depends on the relevant rates of a large number of processes, not least the rate at which you consume the stuff. Given the well documented damage it can do you, it is simply common sense to reduce the only part of the process that you can influence, which is your rate of consumption. Again hence the advice of the FSA.

        1. If I disagree with anything, in my naive way, it’s the appropriatenessness of your analogy, on the grounds of gross overconsumption and the notion that cumulative toxicity is somehow similar to the rather binary nature of death versus non-death as a result of a variant of Russian roulette, whether it be infanticidal or suicidal.

          The banning of lead ammo is a no-brainer, to a naive person like me, on the grounds that there is no justification for allowing the continued veneering of land with a toxic heavy metal that accumulates in soil and kills wildlife, whether or not there is an “acceptable” alternative for use in a pointless pursuit where an equivalent amount of food could easily be produced on farms. There is a limit on the permissible lead content of soil in relation to some land uses and so, in my naive way, I would like the addition of more lead to stop. And I would like all the lead that has been spread already to be picked up again. Food would still contain lead and I would go on eating it although I would remain circumspect about shellfish not because of their inherently high lead content but because of my naive dislike of the nausea and puking that comes with norovirus even when there is an “R” in the month.

          I find the outbreak of concern over what gamekeepers feed to their children or the fate of hapless customers of Iceland very touching but suspect, in my naive way, that this is a means to an end. There is no good reason I can think of not to have a similar legal limit for lead in game as for meat and poultry, but this wouldn’t stop the consumption of lead at “legal” levels and the total cumulative intake would still be under personal voluntary control. Rather like alcohol, for which there is also no safe level of consumption. Apparently.

          1. If people want to eat powdered lead, yes, let them. However the labelling of food should tell people about the potential harm that it can do. If for example I bought some finely divided lead, I would get a form called an MSDS delivered with it, explaining the things I could do to prevent poisoning myself with the stuff.

            If people have ulterior motives for arguing a case against lead ammunition, does this mean that their arguments are invalid? Off course this is political. I like ducks, pure and simple.

  10. Interestingly lead acetate is actually pretty soluble, so I would very much avoid vinegar with my grouse.

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