View Full Version : OH: Lead test in deer sparks concerns

Bob S
04-13-2008, 06:01 PM
ARTICLE (http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/sports/stories/2008/04/13/outdoors13.ART_ART_04-13-08_C13_A49TJ2I.html?type=rss&cat=&sid=101)

High-powered rifle ammunition is faulted

April 13, 2008

By Dave Golowenski
For The Columbus Dispatch

The number of venison recipes, ranging from haute cuisine to deer burger and jerky, count in the hundreds if not thousands.

Not one of them calls for a dash of lead.

Lead, a toxin, is most closely linked to neurological problems in babies and children. It apparently comes in significant amounts, along with iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, zinc and other metallic nutrients, in the flesh of deer killed with high-powered rifles using standard lead ammunition.

A doctor, who serves as a professor at the University of North Dakota and is himself a big-game hunter, spurred the discovery.

"This is very disturbing news that we found," William Cornatzer said.

Moved to investigate after reading reports that California condors were dying after ingesting lead from dining on animals killed but not retrieved by hunters, Cornatzer wondered whether meat taken home might pose an unforeseen lead risk to humans.

Could be.

A high-definition CT scan involving 100 pounds of donated ground venison from various sources revealed that 60 of the 1-pound packages contained lead fragments.

"The worst part," Cornatzer told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, is "they are not metal fragments like shotgun pellets that you can feel. They're like lead dust that's in the meat. We're eating it."

When word of the findings got out last month, the North Dakota Department of Health ordered venison pulled off the shelves at food pantries. Minnesota, another state where rifles are used to hunt deer, followed suit and promised to conduct tests.

The initial findings and resulting embargo brought an outcry from hunting groups and from groups that facilitate the donation of hunter-provided venison to food kitchens and food banks that serve the poor.

"It's alarmist and not supported by any science," said Lawrence Keane, a vice president and lawyer for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group representing the firearms and ammunition industry.

Keane neglected to suggest in what way a CT scan fails as a tool of science but added rightfully that "high-quality protein is now taken out of the mouths of needy, hungry people."

Calling for "peer-reviewed" studies, Keane didn't say outright whether the risk of toxicity in all that high-quality protein, which amounts to hundreds of thousands of donated pounds nationally, ought to be left to public opinion while additional tests are made.

At least one outdoors writer, opining on a public Web site, seems to believe so. Based on personal exper-ience -- which includes no rigorous testing that hasn't involved tasting and running meat through a grinder -- he dismissed the North Dakota findings that lead from a rifled bullet sprays through "a large part of the animal" as "total nonsense."

Such insightful reaction to scientific scrutiny perhaps advances the case that there could be something to those findings about intellect-inhibiting lead, after all.

At any rate, Cornatzer didn't claim that his findings could be applied to animals killed with muzzleloaders or shotgun slugs, which travel slower than rifled bullets and are far less likely to fragment into flakes.

As it turns out, Iowa, where shotguns and muzzleloaders are used to hunt deer, has looked into that aspect. And although the study has yet to be peer-reviewed, the results are certain to quiet irate crowds: Ten samples taken from Iowa food banks revealed less than 1 part per million of lead. Eight had no detectable lead, and two had trace amounts.

Based on the findings, Iowa gave its distributed venison the all-clear. The assumption is reasonable that deer killed in Ohio by slugs also should be free from lead flakes.

Anti-hunters, of course, have tried to seize on Cornatzer's findings to paint hunters as bad guys willing to dump tainted meat on the poor. Such charges seem silly considering nobody knew there might be a problem until a few weeks ago.

Cornatzer, like millions of other hunters, has been eating meat from animals taken with high-powered rifles for decades. The doctor, who recently disposed of his own stores of flesh, said the problem can be solved by switching to nonlead ammunition.

Ohio hunters, meanwhile, should sleep soundly, assured that they haven't been poisoning anyone.