At the request of the European Commission, ECHA has assessed the health and environmental risks posed by the use of lead projectiles for hunting and outdoor sports shooting as well as lead used in fishing sinkers and lures.
The Agency concluded that an EU-wide restriction would be justified. ECHA estimates that at least 127 million birds are at risk of lead poisoning each year. In addition, citizens are exposed to lead, for example, through game hunted with lead ammunition or when making lead ammunition, fishing sinkers or lures at home. Exposure to lead is especially harmful to children's neurological development. About one million children are vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead due to game meat consumption.
The proposal assesses various risk management options and identifies a preferred option to address the risks. It describes the impacts of these measures on human health and the environment as well as the overall costs to society. In simple terms, ECHA’s proposal is the following:
1. Lead sold and used in hunting, sports shooting and other outdoor shooting:
- ban on the sale and use of lead gunshot (with a five-year transition period). As current Olympic rules specify the use of lead ammunition for certain disciplines, ECHA also considered an optional derogation for use of lead gunshot for sports shooting only under strict conditions, i.e. when releases to the environment are minimised.
- ban on the use of lead in bullets and other projectiles (small calibre: five-year; large calibre: 18-month transition periods). Derogations for continued use if releases to the environment are minimised, i.e. when sports shooting ranges are equipped with bullet traps.
2. Lead sold and used in fishing:
- ban on the sale and use of lead sinkers and lures (with transition periods depending on weight: ≤ 50 g three years; > 50 g five years) immediate ban on the use of lead sinkers when the sinker is deliberately dropped to water (lead drop off techniques).
Military uses of lead ammunition, along with other non-civilian uses of lead ammunition such as by police, security and customs forces, are outside of the scope of the investigation. Indoor uses of lead ammunition are also excluded.
If adopted, the restriction would reduce lead emissions to the environment by approximately 1.7 million tonnes over 20 years. Additionally, the proposed restriction would protect the children of households that very frequently eat game meat. For example, it is assumed that phasing out the use of lead in large-calibre bullets and gunshot could avoid IQ loss in up to 7 000 children a year. The total costs of the restriction to society range from €260 million to €10.5 billion over 20 years depending on the sector affected and the type of restriction imposed.
The proposal is based on the information that was available to ECHA at the time of the preparation and can be updated if information justifying changes comes to light. All stakeholders have the possibility to provide their arguments backed by robust evidence during a six-month consultation, which is scheduled to start on 24 March. ECHA is planning to organise an online info session to explain the restriction process and help stakeholders take part in the consultation.