Hunting with lead: association between blood lead levels and wild game consumption

Environ Res. 2009 Nov;109(8):952-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.08.007. Epub 2009 Sep 10.


Background: Wild game hunting is a popular activity in many regions of the United States. Recently, the presence of lead fragments in wild game meat, presumably from the bullets or shot used for hunting, has raised concerns about health risks from meat consumption.

Objective: This study examined the association between blood lead levels (PbB) and wild game consumption.

Methods: We recruited 742 participants, aged 2-92 years, from six North Dakota cities. Blood lead samples were collected from 736 persons. Information on socio-demographic background, housing, lead exposure source, and types of wild game consumption (i.e., venison, other game such as moose, birds) was also collected. Generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used to determine the association between PbB and wild game consumption.

Results: Most participants reported consuming wild game (80.8%) obtained from hunting (98.8%). The geometric mean PbB were 1.27 and 0.84 microg/dl among persons who did and did not consume wild game, respectively. After adjusting for potential confounders, persons who consumed wild game had 0.30 microg/dl (95% confidence interval: 0.16-0.44 microg/dl) higher PbB than persons who did not. For all game types, recent (<1 month) wild game consumption was associated with higher PbB. PbB was also higher among those who consumed a larger serving size (> or = 2 oz vs. <2 oz); however, this association was significant for 'other game' consumption only.

Conclusions: Participants who consumed wild game had higher PbB than those who did not consume wild game. Careful review of butchering practices and monitoring of meat-packing processes may decrease lead exposure from wild game consumption.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Dakota
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Lead