Well, that was quick. On August 25th, The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and its pals filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban lead ammunition from sale in these here United States. The petition provided plenty of ammunition to gun rights groups. The EPA shot it down two days later on the basis that any such prohibition would exceed their remit (a stance recommended by the National Rifle Association). “After careful review, EPA has determined that TSCA [Toxic Substances Control Act] does not provide the agency with authority to address lead shot and bullets as requested in your petition due to the exclusion found in TCSA 3(2)(b)(v). Consequently, we are denying that portion of your petition.” Click here to download the EPA letter. Make the jump for the CBD’s press release.

WASHINGTON— Conservation groups expressed dismay today after a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to deny a petition to ban toxic lead bullets and shot that commonly kill and harm bald eagles, trumpeter swans, endangered California condors and other wildlife. An estimated 10 million to 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning in the United States.

“The EPA had ample evidence that lead bullets and shot have a devastating effect on America’s wildlife, yet has refused to do anything about it. It’s disappointing to see this country’s top environmental agency simply walk away from the preventable poisoning of birds and other wildlife,” said Darin Schroeder, Vice President for Conservation Advocacy at American Bird Conservancy.

On Aug. 3, American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Association of Avian Veterinarians, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and the hunters’ group Project Gutpile petitioned the EPA to ban lead in bullets and shot for hunting, as well as fishing tackle. The petition referenced nearly 500 peer-reviewed scientific papers illustrating the widespread dangers of lead ammunition and fishing tackle. While the EPA is still considering the petition’s request for the regulation of lead fishing tackle, it denied the petition’s request regarding lead ammunition on the grounds that the Toxic Substances Control Act contains a specific exemption for lead ammunition.

“We strongly believe that the EPA has the clear authority and duty to regulate this very harmful and toxic substance as used in bullets and shot, despite the so-called exemption for lead ammunition that is written into TSCA. We had hoped they would take that responsibility seriously but we remain committed to making sure toxic lead is removed from the environment and we’ll redouble our efforts to see that through,” said Adam Keats, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity.

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

Animals are poisoned when they scavenge on carcasses shot and contaminated with lead bullet fragments, or pick up and eat spent lead-shot pellets or lost fishing weights, mistaking them for food or grit. Some animals die a painful death from lead poisoning while others suffer for years from its debilitating effects.

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