Cree Tree Trappers Association is working with the Cree Health Board in attempts to create awareness in regards to the recent studies in lead ammunition.

Lead ammunition – its effects on human and animal health

Did you know that, for pregnant women and young children, lead can be harmful even in very small amounts? Lead can cause a child to have trouble in school, and have behavior problems. In adults, small amounts can increase blood pressure, damage kidneys and result in mental health problems. Cree Health Board studies show that some Cree adults have blood lead levels above what is recommended by Health Canada. Lead is a metal that is found in rocks in the ground. Lead has been mined for hundreds of years and used in many products such as pipes, batteries, and ammunition. Lead compounds used to be put in paints and gasoline, but these uses were banned many years ago because lead is toxic for humans and animals.


Lead shot can make birds sick

Many bird eat small rocks and sometimes shot pellets in order to help digest hard food in their gizzard, as they do not have teeth. This is why you often see grouse and ptarmigan on the roads like the Route du Nord, especially in winter when their diet is composed of buds and twigs. Geese and ducks can consume lead pellets that have fallen to the bottom of bodies of water. The pellets stay in the bird’s gizzard, and from there, the lead slowly spreads through the bird’s body and poisons it. Birds with lead poisoning can lose their ability to fly and have trouble feeding, mating and caring for young.


Lead bullets can contaminate caribou and moose meat

Lead levels in samples of game meat (caribou, moose and deer) have been studied in Northern Ontario and Southern Quebec (not in Eeyou Istchee). When a bullet hits a bone, it can shatter, and fragments can be found quite far away from the wound channel. In the Quebec study, the samples of meat were obtained from hunters who had had the animal butchered at a commercial butcher. Out of 30 moose meat samples tested, lead was detected in 21 samples and 4 had high levels of lead. Ground meat samples were more likely to be contaminated than steak cubes. Copper bullets can be used as an alternative to lead bullets; people tell us they are not difficult to use. A Cree Health Board worker reported that they are not available in stores in Mistissini, but he found some for sale in Chibougamau (February 2016). Although more expensive than lead bullets, one box of bullets can last more than a year, so the total cost is not enormous.


Cree Board of Health recommendations

The Cree Board of Health’s position is that game meat is excellent for your health. It contains proteins important to build bones, iron for strong blood, and other vitamins and minerals. It contains less «bad fat» than store-bought meat. However, in order to minimize the harmful effects of lead, the Cree Board of Health recommends:

– if using lead bullets for hunting game animals, discard meat that is within 4 inches (10 cm) of the wound channel
– if using the services of a commercial butcher, be sure he is aware of these precautions
– search for and remove all lead pellets from birds and cut around the areas where pellets have been
– use non-lead shot and bullets and encourage family and friends to do so
– lobby your local stores to make all the necessary sizes of non-lead shot and bullets available.

For more information, please contact these persons in the regional Public Health Department of the Cree Board of Health:

  • Paul Meillon,
    Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB)
    Box 250
    Chisasibi, QC J0M 1E0
    Tel (819) 855-2744
    Fax (819) 855-2098


  • Reggie Tomatuk,
    Environmental health officer, Chisasibi.