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I hosted this symposium with its diverse audience, all with an

interest in lead ammunition, with a certain feeling of déjà-vu. It

is now some 30 years since I was heavily involved in the issues

of lead poisoning; on that occasion the victims were primarily

mute swans

Cygnus olor

and the source of the lead was fishing

weights. Eventually – and it took several years of research and

debate – the sale and use of the most commonly used sizes of

fishing leads were forbidden. The result was dramatic, nationally

the mute swan population doubled in the next ten years; on

the lowland, most heavily-fished rivers such as the Thames, the

increases were even greater.

Then, as now, the stakeholders involved appeared to have some

sort of blind-spot when it came to seeing lead as a poison.“Surely

this little pellet isn’t dangerous?”, “It doesn’t really dissolve does

it?” I do not believe that in the 1980s we would ever have made

any real progress on the issue of lead poisoning from fishing

weights inmute swans had it not been for the newspapers of the

time being filled with news of lead in petrol. Nowadays, no one

can be oblivious to the issues of lead because of the damage to

human health, particularly children’s health due to impacts on

their developing brains. Eating food with lead purposefully shot

into it, of course, now seems like a bad idea.

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution report on

Lead in the Environment (RCEP, 1983), made clear the potential

dangers of lead, recommending that its use for ammunition

and for fishing weights should be withdrawn. Successive

Governments have dragged their heels over the issue of lead

ammunition, none seeing it as a serious enough concern

compared with other issues with which they are dealing. This

is strange in view of the growing awareness by the Medical

Profession who have steadily lowered the permitted levels of

lead, especially in food and drink. For wildlife there are some

regulations on the use of lead gunshot but these are clearly

not working. It seems to me that more than 30 years is more

than enough time to decide to take action to stop it from being

distributed into the environment. This has gone on for over

a century or two contaminating soils, poisoning wildlife and

resulting in a gradual build-up that can only make the situation

worse; it is certainly easier to spread it around than to collect it!

I hope the opportunity given by this Oxford Lead Symposium

and its proceedings, to learn about the progress made with so

many aspects of the problems that the use of lead poses, as well

as solutions to the problem, will help make the UK a healthier

and safer place.




Lead in the environment. (T.R.E. Southwood). CMND 8852 Monograph.

HMSO. London.



There are a number of people to whom I am particularly grateful

for making the symposium and the proceedings valuable

contributions to both the science and the discourse of the

lead ammunition issue in the UK: the symposium was expertly

chaired by Lord Krebs and Prof. Colin Galbraith; and Prof. Ian

Newton provided wisdom in the summing up of the day’s

events. I am grateful to Profs. Richard Delahay and Chris Spray

for their independent peer review and editing of the papers in

the proceedings. The speakers provided insightful presentations

whichare capturedwell in thepapers containedherein.Thank you

toTimJones for capturing theday’s events and toRuthCromieand

Jonathan Reeves for providing valuable administrative support.

Professor Chris Perrins,