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Lead-poisoned wildfowl in Spain: a significant threat for human consumers

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Each year, 1.2 million Spanish hunters and shooters discharge 6,000 t of lead shot, of which 30-50 t are deposited in wetlands of this European country. Waterfowl may accidentally ingest lead pellets in these aquatic habitats and become fatally lead poisoned. It has been estimated that 50,000 birds die from this cause in Spain each year, but many more are chronically affected. Most of them are species that can be hunted legally, and the lead toxicosis enhances their susceptibility to being killed by hunting. Consequently, about 30,000 waterfowl hunters and their families, especially children, are at risk from secondary lead ingestion from these poisoned birds. The consumption of a single liver (often eaten in Spain) from any waterfowl shot in this country may result in the direct uptake of 0.01-2.3 mg of lead in 40.4% of cases. This is based on the percentage of 411 analyzed waterfowl having liver lead contents over 0.5 mg kg-1 wet weight, the maximum lead level in poultry offal that current EU regulations permit. Therefore, health management authorities should draw urgent attention to this environmental problem that presents such an established risk to human health.
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Keywords: AVOIDANCE MEASURES; CONTAMINATED FOOD; ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD; HUNTING; LEAD POISONING; PUBLIC HEALTH; WATERFOWL

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Department of Pharmacology, Therapeutics and Toxicology, Veterinary Faculty, Autonomous University of Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain 2: Department of Zoology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada

Publication date: December 1, 2002

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