Lead Ammunition Officially Banned in EU Wetlands, Expected to Save Millions of Birds

Lead Ammunition Officially Banned in EU Wetlands, Expected to Save Millions of Birds

Lead poisoning is estimated to kill one million waterbirds in Europe each year, but a new ban has officially taken effect that should drastically reduce that figure.

A ban on using lead ammunition on wetlands in the EU has now been implemented, after countries were given two years to seek out alternatives. Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein are also part of the ban. It's thought that this action will ultimately save the lives of millions of birds. .

The move has been celebrated by wildlife organizations, though it does only impact wetlands and not other areas.

Barbara Herrero, Senior EU Nature Policy Officer at BirdLife Europe, says, "This is huge. Despite banning lead from paint, petrol and virtually everything else several decades ago, it was still allowed to poison our shared environment – even when alternatives exist. With this ban, the EU has addressed a significant part of the problem. We now call on EU countries to make sure the ban is enforced."

Lead bullets explode and break off into small particles in animals that are shot with it. When birds feed on carcasses that have been shot in this way, they can develop lead poisoning. It also occurs when birds confuse lead-shot pellets for food or grit, small pieces of stone or sand that they ingest to help with the digestion process. Larger raptors can be impacted when their prey has been contaminated, as well.

The current ban aims to address this, as waterbirds are especially susceptible to lead poisoning. Studies have shown that an estimated 700,000 individuals across 16 waterbird species die due to lead poisoning each year in the EU, while one million do so across the continent. Another three million live with the impacts of the poisoning.

However, the European Chemicals Agency is also working on a second restriction that would apply to using lead shot outside of wetlands, as well as lead fishing weights and lures.

Dr. Julia Newth, Ecosystem Health & Social Dimensions Manager at the UK conservation charity Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, says, "This is an important milestone in our campaign to protect and improve wetlands for nature, for wildlife and for people. Further regulations on lead ammunition in the UK and EU will help us to leave the toxic legacy of lead well and truly behind.”

If you'd like to do your part to address the issue, considering signing this petition to help protect wildlife from lead poisoning.

Michelle Milliken

Michelle has a journalism degree and has spent more than seven years working in broadcast news. She's also been known to write some silly stuff for humor websites. When she's not writing, she's probably getting lost in nature, with a fully-stocked backpack, of course.

Back to blog