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
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
- 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.
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:David.Stroud@jncc.gov.uk