New policy addresses threat of lead toxicosis

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The AVMA has adopted a policy supporting efforts to mitigate the harmful effects of lead exposure on people, animals, and the environment. While meeting Nov. 17-19, 2016, at AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois, the Board of Directors approved the statement submitted by the AVMA Committee on Environmental Issues.

The policy, which has been endorsed by the American Academy of Veterinary and Comparative Toxicology, American Board of Veterinary Toxicology, and U.S. Animal Health Association/American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians Committee on Environ­ment and Toxicology, reads as follows:


The AVMA recognizes that lead in the environment is a health risk to people, pets, livestock, and wildlife. The AVMA encourages research, education, and actions to mitigate the risk by elimination of lead exposure and continued development and use of alternative products.

The AVMA statement on eliminating harmful lead exposure is a much-needed global policy, said AVMA Board member Dr. Karen Bradley, District I. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

“This is a much-needed global policy,” Dr. Karen Bradley, the District I representative on the Board, observed during deliberations.

The AVMA committee noted in its recommendation to the Board that as a founder and participant in the One Health Commission, the Association should be a leader in recognizing health risks posed by lead exposure to people, animals, and ecosystems; in advocating for measures to mitigate these risks; and in urging the development and use of alternatives whenever possible.

Lead toxicosis is a common form of poisoning in cattle, and as of 2014, U.S. taxpayers had spent $1.3 billion for restoration and protection of threatened and endangered species, the committee stated. The veterinary profession is one of many that helped bring the California condor back from the brink of extinction, only to see the recovered condor populations declared unsustainable owing to lead poisoning.

Hundreds and perhaps thousands of bald and golden eagles as well as other scavengers die of lead poisoning annually, the committee added.

Several professional organizations involved in health and management of wildlife have adopted position statements recommending the replacement of lead ammunition by nontoxic alternatives, including The Wildlife Society and the Association of Avian Veterinarians, according to the AVMA committee.

Related JAVMA content:

Protecting wild birds from lead poisoning (Dec. 15, 2012)