The risks lead poses to human health and to animal welfare need to be taken seriously, Alex Cunningham has said, and the importance of a strong evidence base in assessing these areas cannot be overstated.
The Stockton North MP, who is also Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Natural Environment, was speaking in a debate in Parliament held to consider the impacts of lead ammunition and called for the UK to meet international commitments by phasing out all lead ammunition by 2017.
There is a long-standing recognition of lead’s toxicity, and lead is one of the best-studied contaminants in the world. Unlike other trace metals, lead plays no physiological function in the human body and acts instead as a neurotoxin. Bodies such as the World Health Organisation have been clear that all forms of lead are toxic and there is no safe level of exposure.
Speaking during the debate in his shadow ministerial capacity, Alex said:
“As a responsible society, recognising the inherent dangers, we have already taken action and regulated to cut lead from petrol, from paint and from water pipes.
“But, despite the evidence and our previous moves to regulate other sources of exposure, we have not yet banned the use of lead by shooters completely.
“With softer restrictions on the use of lead ammunition having been widely flouted, the time has come to embrace the growing body of evidence and for all lead shot and bullets to be replaced with non-toxic alternatives.”
The Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, responding on behalf of the Government, was unmoved by the evidence cited throughout the debate, exploiting the complexity of the issue to justify an unwillingness to commit support for Labour’s proposal.
Following the debate, Alex said:
“I was saddened that the Minister does not see fit to heed the extensive evidence of lead’s toxicity at this time and the danger this threatens to animals and humans – evidence further confirmed earlier this month by the latest research published by the influential Oxford Lead Symposium.
“To avoid these risks, we need positive actions to close the existing regulatory gaps and meet out international commitments rather than passivity. I was pleased the Minister at least said DEFRA was still considering the evidence, but it is high time that we stopped ducking this problem and took a common sense approach to regulating lead ammunition.”