Moving towards using more lead-free ammunition

Each year approximately 375 million cartridges are imported into Canada for recreational shooting, hunting and enforcement activities. This ammunition releases about 5,200 tonnes of lead into the environment annually.  It is the single most significant source of lead releases onto the land in Canada.

Lead is a highly toxic metal. It can cause detrimental effects to the nervous and reproductive systems of humans and wildlife, sometimes leading to death. Other problems include: 

  • game meat containing lead ammunition fragments and consumed by children could have an impact on their intelligence and development
  • use of lead ammunition at outdoor shooting ranges can contaminate the surrounding soil and ground water
  • scavengers and predators such as eagles can be poisoned by ingesting spent lead ammunition and related fragments, or by consuming wounded or dead prey containing lead fragments

Alternatives to lead

There is lead-free ammunition available in the Canadian market. Made from materials such as copper or copper-zinc alloy, steel, tungsten or bismuth, it is as effective if not better than lead. 

The advantages of lead-free ammunition are:

  • it does not contaminate soil or water
  • it does not fragment or contaminate game meat that is eventually consumed by Canadians or by scavenging animals
  • compared to overall hunting or sport shooting expenditures, munition costs is minimal

Waterfowl hunters have been using non-lead shot since the early 1990s. However, recreational shooting and other game hunting remain a significant cause of lead releases. Protect your family and wildlife by choosing and promoting the use of these alternatives. If lead-free ammunition is not available at your sporting goods store, ask them to carry it.

How to be involved

To start a conversation, we would like your ideas and input into designing an approach that encourages the use of lead-free ammunition including:

  • how to spread the message to encourage lead-free hunting and shooting
  • what actions could be implemented to increase accessibility of non-lead products
  • what practices could be implemented to mitigate resulting risks in Canada
  • how we could engage and build upon existing initiatives
  • what additional information we should consider

Be part of this conversation by providing your input, before June 1st, 2018, by email to:

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