Environment Canada says hunting ammunition may pose an ecological hazard.
The department is reviewing the environmental impact of lead bullets, estimating tons of the material litter forests and shooting ranges nationwide.
Industry officials noted lead remains a popular, inexpensive ingredient in ammunition, but said there was no evidence lead posed an environmental risk.
“There is a big push on this from the lefties in the States,” said Kurt Thomas, an ammunition manufacturer.
“The military shoots off tons of this,” said Thomas, president of Canadian BDX of Black Diamond, Alta. “How many trillions of rounds of lead were fired in Belgium in World War One, yet their farmland is productive and the people are healthy.”
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq did not comment.
Aglukkaq’s department proposed to study “patterns of lead ammunition from hunting and sport shooting activities” and their effect.
Firearms have left more than 1,000 tonnes of lead in the environment, officials estimated. The department proposed a study of practices in Japan, South Korea, the European Union and United States. The State of California last month became the first in America to restrict lead in hunting ammunition.
“There is no issue here; this is a political correctness issue,” said Tony Bernardo, acting executive director of the Canadian Sporting Arms & Ammunition Association. “California spews millions of tons of lead into the air from diesel and jet fuel; that is far more prevalent than any lead from hunting ammunition.”
Bernardo said numerous shooting clubs in Canada have reclaimed lead from firing ranges without any evidence of environmental harm.
“It’s not like it goes into the water table and floats downstream,” said Bernardo. “We’ve had several ranges that are very conscious of this issue and have repeatedly tested their soil and nearby water sources for contamination – without result.”
The international study is scheduled for completion in 2015.
In 1999, Environment Canada banned the use of lead shot in National Wildlife Areas, and restricted its use nationwide by hunters of all species of migratory birds and water fowl with the exception of murres, woodcock and band-tailed pigeons, and mourning doves.
“The Government of Canada has committed to further reducing the exposure of lead,” Environment Canada reported in a notice; “Lead is associated with risks to human health, including developmental neurotoxicity, neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, renal and reproductive effects. Known environmental hazards of lead include toxicity to birds, fish and crustaceans.”
By Tom Korski