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The history of environmental pollution by lead is as long as its history of use by human society. However, although

there has been nearly three centuries of regulation related to lead in industrial or domestic settings, use of leaded

paint and leaded petrol remains legal in some countries and there are other widespread sources. Population exposure

especially in developing countries continues to be significant not least as a consequence of the movement of‘dirty’, high

risk industries to poor countries with less developed regulatory regimes. Accordingly lead is a subject of global public

health targets.

International recognition of lead as a source of wildlife mortality or morbidity has developed over recent decades,

although implementation of clearly set international objectives is hindered by the ‘invisible’ nature of such poisoning –

with poisoned animals seldom being seen by the public. This facilitates denial of the issue since lead impacts are not a

‘spectacular’cause of wildlife deaths.

The history of initiatives to reduce population exposure to lead through better regulation is one in which vested

interests have fought to maintain the

status quo

- seeing regulation as a threat to their economic interests. Indeed,

very similar types of justification have been made by those arguing against better regulation of lead emissions into

the environment - whether as a fuel additive, or in relation to ammunition and other sources that poison wildlife.

Thus, understanding the difficulties faced by past advocates for better regulation informs contemporary initiatives to

reduce harm from lead discharges.

Significant, albeit slow, progress has been made in one arena, with the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds

Agreement providing an important international driver for national policy change amongst its 75 Contracting Parties.

The call by the 120 Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in 2014 to

“Phase-out the use of lead ammunition

across all habitats (wetland and terrestrial) with non-toxic alternatives within the next three years…”


important global recognition of the issue. It will be important to make rapid progress to this end to avoid prolonging

unnecessary poisoning of wildlife at risk.

Key words:

Lead, legislation, petrol, paint, fishing weights, gunshot, ammunition, waterbirds, poisoning, wetlands, UK,


Regulation of some sources of lead poisoning:

a brief review

David A. Stroud

Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Monkstone House, City Road, Peterborough PE1 1JY, UK

Corresponding author email address: