HUMAN EXPOSURE TO LEAD FROM AMMUNITION IN THE CIRCUMPOLAR NORTH
"... Circumpolar subsistence cultures use firearms, including shotguns and rifles, for hunting game for consumption. Lead shot is still used for waterfowl and seabird hunting in many subsistence areas (despite lead shot bans) because it is inexpensive, readily available, and more familiar than non-toxic or steel shot, which shoot differently. Here we review published literature on lead concentrations and lead isotope patterns from subsistence users in the circumpolar North, indicating that elevated lead exposure is associated with use of lead ammunition. ..."
"...the Dene/Métis and birdhunting Inuit in Canada averaged from 3.1–5.0 •g/dL of lead in maternal blood, compared to 1.9– 2.2 •g/dL among Caucasians and other Inuit (Van Oostdam et al. 2003). However, 3.4% and 2.2% of the blood samples from the Inuit and Dene/Métis women, respectively, exceeded the 10.0 •g/dL Canadian Action Level (Walker et al. 2001). In Greenland, blood lead levels in Inuit mothers averaged 3.1–5.0 •g/dL, similar to the Canadian Inuit and Dene/Métis (AMAP 2003). In Siberia, indigenous women had average blood lead levels of 2.1–3.2 •g/dL, while non-indigenous women, who presumably obtained a smaller proportion, if any, of their food from hunting, averaged 0.02–0.04 •g/dL (AMAP 2003). In Nunavik (Arctic Quebec), adult Inuit blood lead levels were elevated and were related to age, smoking and, in particular, daily consumption of waterfowl (Dewailly et al. 2001). ..."
"...Of 132 randomly selected radiographic charts from a hospital serving six native Cree communities in Northern Ontario (1990–1995), 15% showed lead shot in the gastrointestinal system (Tsuji and Nieboer 1997)..." '... definitively document lead from ammunition—both shot and bullets—as a source of lead in First Nations Cree in northern Ontario...."
"... a strong suggestion that the source of elevated cord blood lead, found in approximately 7% of Inuit newborns, was lead from ammunition. There were also signature differences between Inuit infants from Nunavik in northern Quebec, and Caucasian infants from southern Quebec...."
Since bans on lead in gasoline, instituted primarily in the 1980s and 1990s, lead levels in northern hemisphere humans have generally declined. A notable exception is the blood lead levels of Arctic indigenous peoples who rely on subsistence foods. In many cases, elevated blood lead levels in the Arctic have been associated with ingestion of lead from spent ammunition, primarily shot, although lead from fragmented bullets in big game may have been overlooked as a source until recently (Hunt et al. 2006, Tsuji et al. 2008, Hunt et al. 2009, Titus et al. 2009). Other cases of harmful lead exposure have resulted indirectly from use of lead in ammunition or for fishing (indoor firing ranges, home melting and manufacture of lead sinkers, shot, or bullets, and home reloading). Because subsistence populations by definition hunt much of their food, and because this food is important economically, nutritionally, and socially (Titus et al. 2009), an inexpensive source of ammunition is required. Lead is relatively inexpensive, but use of lead in ammunition comes with risks to humans, especially children, which do not occur with non-lead substitutes. ..."
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