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Determining Tissue-Lead Levels in Large Game Mammals Harvested with Lead Bullets: Human Health Concerns


Recently, the use of lead isotope ratios has definitively identified lead ammunition as a source of lead exposure for First Nations people, but the isotope ratios for lead pellets and bullets were indistinguishable. Thus, lead-contaminated meat from game harvested with lead bullets may also be contributing to the lead body burden; however, few studies have determined if lead bullet fragments are present in big game carcasses. We found elevated tissue-lead concentrations (up to 5,726.0 μg/g ww) in liver (5/9) and muscle (6/7) samples of big game harvested with lead bullets and radiographic evidence of lead fragments. Thus, we would advise that the tissue surrounding the wound channel be removed and discarded, as this tissue may be contaminated by lead bullet fragments.

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We thank Dr. E. Nieboer for use of his EAAS, all hunters who kindly donated large game mammal tissues and comments from Dr. H. N. Nigg.

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Correspondence to L. J. S. Tsuji.

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Tsuji, L.J.S., Wainman, B.C., Jayasinghe, R.K. et al. Determining Tissue-Lead Levels in Large Game Mammals Harvested with Lead Bullets: Human Health Concerns. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 82, 435–439 (2009).

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  • Lead bullets
  • Lead-contaminated wild meat
  • Human consumption