Chronic Lead Intoxication From Eating Wild-Harvested Game

Published:December 13, 2017DOI:



      The purpose of this article is to determine if conversion from eating wild game harvested with lead-based ammunition to nonlead-based ammunition results in lower blood lead levels. Supersonic injection of toxin-leeching frangible projectiles into food is intuitively bad. As much as 95% of the ~13.7 million hunters in the United States choose shrapnel-inducing lead bullets to kill game; in addition, not harvesting meat is an incarcerable crime. A lead ammunition ban on certain federal lands was recently rescinded and the National Rifle Association refutes any risk from eating lead bullet-harvested game.


      A patient subsisting solely on lead-shot meat was converted to non-lead ammunition and his blood lead level tracked. Concomitant with his conversion to nonlead ammunition, a controlled experiment was performed using the patient's bullets to determine his daily lead intake from lead-shot meat.


      While eating lead-shot meat, the patient was consuming 259.3 ± 235.6 µg of lead daily and his blood lead level was 74.7 µg/dL. Conversion to nonlead ammunition was associated with a reduced blood lead level.


      Unsafe blood lead levels can occur from eating game harvested with lead ammunition. Physicians should warn hunting patients of this potential risk and counsel them about the availability of nonlead ammunition alternatives.


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