For Immediate Release, June 27, 2019


Policy Contact: Jonathan Evans, (510) 844-7118,
Scientific Contacts: Dr. Donald Smith, (831) 459-5041,
Dr. Myra Finkelstein, (831) 459-1249,

Ban on Hunting With Lead Ammo to Go Into Effect in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— On Monday California will become the first state to ban all lead ammunition for hunting — the culmination of years of efforts to phase out toxic lead ammunition in the environment.

The statewide ban will significantly decrease the risk that leftover fragments of spent lead bullets and shot will poison wildlife such as hawks, owls, eagles and critically endangered California condors.

“Switching to nontoxic ammunition will save the lives of thousands birds and other wildlife and prevent hunting families from being exposed to toxic lead,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Top scientists, doctors and public-health experts from around the country have long called for a ban on lead hunting ammunition, citing overwhelming scientific evidence of the toxic dangers posed to people and wildlife.

Comprehensive scientific research led by University of California at Santa Cruz environmental toxicologists Donald Smith and Myra Finkelstein found that lead poisoning from spent ammunition is preventing the recovery of the endangered California condor.

“This landmark policy will have direct impacts on improving environmental and human health in California,” said Smith, a professor of microbiology and environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz.

“California’s lead ammunition ban for hunting is a crucial step toward a self-sustaining wild condor population and will protect other scavenging species across the state from the lethal effects of lead,” said Finkelstein, a UC Santa Cruz adjunct associate professor of microbiology and environmental toxicology.

Non-lead ammunition is widely available at gun and sporting-goods stores. Hunters will be able to choose from more than 55 manufacturers certified to sell lead-free ammunition in California. Lead ammunition is still allowed for target shooting at shooting ranges.

At least 15 other states have some restrictions on lead ammunition, but California’s statewide ban on lead ammunition for hunting is the most sweeping in U.S. history. The ban is the final step in the six-year process to phase out lead ammo after the passage of Assembly Bill 711 in 2013.

The benefits of banning the use of toxic lead ammunition have been demonstrated. In 1991 nontoxic shot was required instead of lead ammunition when hunting waterfowl to reduce lead poisoning, but that action did not extend to upland game hunting. Waterfowl hunters have successfully been using affordable, nontoxic shot for more than 25 years.

Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife even at very low levels. Exposure to it can cause a range of health effects, from acute poisoning and painful death to long-term problems such as reduced reproduction, inhibition of growth, and damage to neurological development.

Nationwide millions of nontarget birds and other wildlife are poisoned each year from eating carcasses containing lead-bullet fragments or consuming lead-poisoned prey. Spent lead ammunition causes lead poisoning in 130 species of birds and animals. Nearly 500 scientific papers document the dangers to wildlife from this lead exposure.

Studies using radiographs show that lead ammunition leaves fragments and numerous imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead that contaminate game meat far from a bullet track, causing significant health risks to people eating wild game. Some state health agencies have had to recall venison donated to feed the hungry because of dangerous lead contamination from bullet fragments.

Read more about the Center for Biological Diversity’s Get the Lead Out campaign.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.