The issue of fragmented lead from bullets in wild game and its potential toxicity to humans has been a contentious topic the past couple of years. But a recent European study suggests there might be something to it.
From this story on ScienceDaily:
Eating the meat of animals hunted using lead ammunition can be more dangerous for health than was previously thought, especially for children and people who consume large quantities. This is reflected in a study carried out by British and Spanish researchers that has been published by the journal PLos One. A team of scientists from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), along with researchers from other British institutions and from the Spanish Research Institute on Cynegetic Resources (IREC in Spanish), has proven that the levels of lead in some game meat that has already been cooked exceed the maximum allowances set by the European Union, due to the presence of remains of ammunition.
“Depending on the species and type of recipe used, between 20 and 87.5% of the samples analysed exceeded the maximum level of lead set by the EU in meat from livestock animals of 100 parts per billion (0.1 mg/kg of the fresh weight of meat),” Rafael Mateo, co-author of the study and researcher for IREC (a joint centre composed of the University of Castilla-La Mancha, the Community Board of Castilla-La Mancha and the CSIC), indicated.
To carry out the study, published recently in the free access journal PLoS ONE, the researchers analysed the meat of six species of game birds (red partridge, pheasant, wood pigeon, grouse, woodcock and mallard) shot by hunters in the United Kingdom. “In Spain and other countries hunting is done in the same way and using the same ammunition, meaning that the issue with this type of contamination in meat is the same across the board,” Mateo points out.
The pieces were x-rayed to detect the presence of pellets and minute fragments of lead. Afterwards, the pellets in the meat were cooked and removed, as we would normally do when eating. Finally, the concentration of the metal in the food was measured using atomic absorption spectroscopy.
“Although the levels set by the EU are for meat that is consumed more frequently than game, in species like the woodcock, 5.4% of the birds cooked displayed more than 10 mg/kg, which indicates that by eating 200g of this meat on a single occasion, the tolerable weekly intake of lead for a person weighing 80g could be exceeded,” the researcher highlights.
The study concludes that the potential health risk of consuming game shot with lead could be greater than was thought up until now, especially for vulnerable groups like children and people who consume large quantities of this meat._
Another interesting finding of the study was that cooking meat with recipes containing vinegar actually increases the contamination by making the lead more easily absorbed.