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ECHA identifies risks to terrestrial environment from lead ammunition


The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) recommends that measures are needed to regulate the use of lead ammunition in terrestrial environments in addition to those proposed for wetlands.

Helsinki, 12 September 2018 – ECHA’s new report on non-wetland uses of lead in ammunition (gunshot and bullets) and in fishing weights has found sufficient evidence of risk to justify additional measures. The report concludes that measures are needed because they would:

  • limit additional pollution with lead and improve the quality of the environment. While about 5 000 tonnes of lead are currently dispersed into wetlands due to hunting, other shooting activities such as lead gunshot used in non-wetland areas spreads a further 14 000 tonnes of lead into the environment, and the use of lead bullets and fishing weights adds to this quantity. In addition, between 10 000 to 20 000 tonnes of lead are used in sports shooting activities; 
  • reduce the mortality of an estimated 1 to 2 million birds, such as pheasants and partridges, that may inadvertently swallow the lead shot, or scavenge or prey on lead poisoned birds in the terrestrial environment; and
  • reduce health risks to a significant population of hunters and their families who frequently eat game meat killed with lead shot or bullets.

ECHA found that the costs of replacing lead shot are limited as alternative steel shot is available, can be used in most shotguns, and is not significantly more expensive. As such, the extra costs to the individual hunter would be small.

This report is ECHA’s response to the European Commission’s request to collect information on potential risks of other uses of lead for hunting in terrains outside of wetlands, for target shooting outside of wetlands, and in sinkers and jigs for fishing.


On 17 August 2018, ECHA sent the opinion of its scientific committees on its wetland proposal to the Commission. The opinion supported that a restriction was justified on lead in shot used in wetlands to reduce the large-scale exposure of numerous wetland bird species to lead by ingestion of spent lead pellets. It is estimated that annually approximately 1 million wetland birds die in the EU from lead poisoning despite existing legislation in 24 of 28 Member States and an international agreement (AEWA) to protect wetland birds.

The proposal found that the benefits of the restriction to society will outweigh its costs and that the cost to hunters seems to be affordable, although the impact may differ in different Member States. ECHA’s committees for risk assessment (RAC) and for socio-economic analysis (SEAC) agreed with this conclusion and noted that the enforceability of the proposal could be improved by a wider restriction covering all uses of lead shot. This is fully consistent with the conclusions of ECHA’s report published today.