#BanLead : Lead ammunition is poisoning wetlands and birds

Wetlands are home to very rare species and are particularly important for birds, during their life cycle, as sources of feeding, resting, and for shelter. Birds use them also for breeding, nesting, and raising their young.


Flamingos in Kos Island, Greece. Photo: © T. Gymellas/Wikimedia Commons


The future of many bird populations depends upon the status of wetlands. Today, these ecosystems face unprecedented and challenging anthropological issues that threaten their functioning and biodiversity. From a crucial life habitat to a death-trap for them, wetlands witness the death of large numbers of birds due to the indiscriminate hunting practices over wetlands using lead shot which prevail there.

…And where lead thrives, bad things will follow. When millions of lead shotgun pellets are scattered across our wetlands, they have dire effects on human health and wildlife.

Birds frequently eat the small pellets of lead. They get confused thinking these pellets are the “grit” that helps them digest their food. As a result, they often die from lead poisoning.  According to Birdlife Europe and Central Asia, one million water birds die poisoned by lead every year in the European Union. 67% of birds eating three pellets will die in the following 20 days.

And, of course, humans are not immune to lead’s harmful effects. Lead ammunition can leach into the food we eat through wildlife that has been shot with lead. It is most readily absorbed into the body through inhalation or ingestion (KEMI, 2012). Lead is extremely toxic and has no function in living organisms. Hence, it is recommended that pregnant women do not eat game meat shot with lead. It is easily transferred to the foetus via the placenta (Carbone et al., 1998). Furthermore, children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure.


#BanLead : toward a non-lead future

Understanding the threats, we must act now. On the 3rd of September, EU countries will vote again to ban lead. We hope, this time, they vote for the benefit of nature and human beings by restricting the use of lead gunshot in or over wetlands.

We must listen to the science ; top scientists say “stop pouring this poison into nature”. 75 scientists, medical and veterinary professionals have signed an open letter on the Risks of Lead Ammunition asking EU Ministers to listen to evidence and urging them to support the ban and save wildlife and people lives. Find the letter here.



BirdLife Europe has been leading the call to ban lead shot for many years. It now calls on all nature lovers to seize this moment to save one million birds by supporting its #BanLead Campaign.

TAKE ACTION and find out more at the campaign webpage: