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Lead shot and bullets: What are the health impacts?

ᐲᐦ ᒋᐱᐦ ᐧ ᑳᒋᑭᓐ ᐊᓯᓃᐦ ᑭᔮᐦ ᑳᐱᔑᒥᐧ ᑖᑖᔑᒡ ᐊᔑᓃᔥᐦ
pîh chipih w kâchikin asinîh kiyâh kâpishimiw tâtâshich ashinîshh

Some shot and bullets for hunting in Eeyou Istchee are made with a metal called lead. Lead is toxic and can lead to health problems in children and adults.

Game meats and traditional foods are very good for us. Switching to lead-free ammunition helps keep our families, environment, and meechum healthy.

2 geese

Did you know?

Even small amounts of lead can harm a child's development and behavior. Young children with too much lead may learn more slowly, both at home and at school. Lead pellets and ammunition can also poison birds like geese and loons.

What is lead and where does it come from?

Lead is a metal found in certain kinds of rocks. These rocks can be crushed and heated to take out the pure lead. You can find it in some shot pellets and bullets, charge powder, fishing sinkers, vehicle batteries, and paint for canoes and other boats.


Lead gets into people’s bodies when they…

  • Eat food or smoke after touching the dust on a lead shot cartridge, a gun, or a lead fishing sinker.
  • Eat tiny fragments of lead shot or bullets left in game.
  • Breathe in dust or smoke that contains lead, like the smoke from a gun when you fire it.



  • Small amounts of lead can cause sleep problems, mood changes, and raised blood pressure.


  • Larger amounts of lead can make people very sick – like brain or kidney damage, miscarriages in pregnant women, and development problems in young children.


  • Babies and growing children absorb lead into their bodies more easily than adults, so they are sensitive to even small amounts.


  • Because of its health impacts, the government has banned it in gasoline, and water pipes, and tin cans. 


  • Exposure to large amounts of lead is rare, but workers in certain factories and mines may be at higher risk.

WHAT CAN we do about lead?

  • Switch to ammunition that does not have lead, like steel shot or copper bullets
  • Keep used shot cartridges, pellets, or fish sinkers away from children because they may have lead.
  • Make sure your hands are clean before you eat or smoke while hunting because there can be lead dust from charge powder on your hands.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Clean up empty shells and garbage at your blind.
  • Use beads or lead-free shot when making shîshîkwin (baby rattles).
  • For game harvested with lead shot or bullets:
    • Do not eat meat close (about 4 inches) to the bullet or the wound channel
    • Give babies, children, and pregnant women meat that is far from the bullet and wound channel
    • Cook meat in the oven or fire, instead of a stew

Explore more

Continue to use care and proper hygiene when handling and preparing our harvests.

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