Lead Ban Chronicles – Research Shows WV Vultures Carrying High Lead Concentrations

April 8, 2015

Lead Ban ChroncilesLet me preface by saying that the article in question doesn’t necessarily present any new information, especially as it relates to hunting with lead (or lead-free) ammunition.  In fact, it clearly states that an additional source of the lead is most likely the coal-fired power plants in the area.  But that’s the part that I find interesting… that the article does bring in additional sources of lead besides hunters.

Beyond that, as you can see in the comments, I found the article to be lacking some information that I thought would have been pertinent, such as whether there was an apparent impact on vulture populations in the area, or even if the vultures studied died from lead toxicity (or related causes).

Here’s the lede, such as it is..

A new study out of West Virginia University finds that lead poisoning in vultures is way more prevalent than expected. Researchers say the source of the lead is ammunition and coal-fired power plant emissions – prompting one researcher to liken vultures to the canaries miners once used to gauge if a coal mine was safe or not.

Give it a read. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


3 Responses to “Lead Ban Chronicles – Research Shows WV Vultures Carrying High Lead Concentrations”

  1. Lead Ban Chronicles – Research Shows WV Vultures Carrying High Lead Concentrations | on April 8th, 2015 13:32

    […] Lead Ban Chronicles – Research Shows WV Vultures Carrying High Lead Concentrations […]

  2. Robb on April 8th, 2015 20:40

    I’d like to see a good study of the lead in the animals the vultures eat. I’m skeptical of these studies after the famous CDC study in N Dakota. I’d want to know how much lead comes from shot and how much from coal emissions and how much is left over from paint and auto fuel.

    It’s known that lead exposure is much higher in urban areas than in people who consume game shot with lead, I’d like to see better sourcing than the very inexact isotope analysis.

  3. Phillip on April 11th, 2015 05:40

    Robb, I agree. There’s definitely a lot more research that needs to be done here. Keep in mind that vultures have a really high tolerance for lead (compared to most other scavengers), and we also know that lead is a cumulative toxin, so it makes sense that these birds had “unusual” levels. Bearing in mind as well that this study took place in West Virginia where, in addition to coal-burning power plants (an identified source of lead), the area has been hammered by generations of coal mining. In other words, it would be hard to imagine that the birds and many of the animals in the area were not carrying appreciable amounts of lead… even before you factor in the relative handful of deer killed by hunters in the state (appx. 40,000, and an unknown percentage of those carcasses became vulture chow).

    The interesting thing in this study was that, instead of measuring blood lead levels, which fluctuate, they measured lead in the bones. I’m not entirely sure how much relevance that may have in the case of the condors, but it does provide (I think) a more accurate picture of exposure.

    The other interesting thing is that the study looked at sources of lead besides ammo, and clearly identified industrial pollution as one factor. This is what has been missing in the CA studies, or at least it’s what’s been missing publicly.