Lead in wild harvested game

Hunters walking through open grassland

Learn about lead, protect your health! 

Eating game meat harvested with lead bullets increases the risk of lead poisoning. Lead bullets easily fragment when they strike an animal, and people can unintentionally eat them in processed game meat. Children and pregnant people are more vulnerable to lead poisoning and should not eat any game harvested with lead bullets. The number one thing hunters can do to protect themselves and their families is to only use lead-free ammunition.


Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning in children happens when they eat or inhale small amounts of lead for a long time. There may be no signs or symptoms until dangerous amounts have accumulated in the body.


Tips for hunters

  1. For big game, use monolithic copper projectiles for centerfire rifles. These options provide for little to no fragmentation and controlled expansion. 
    • Example brands include Barnes TTSX, Hornady CX, Nosler Etip, Remington Core-Lokt Copper, and Federal Trophy Copper.
    • Lead-free bullet options for muzzleloaders include Federal BOR Lok and THOR bullets.
  2. For turkey and small game, commonly available lead-free shotshell options include steel, bismuth, and tungsten. There are many shot options that do not cause toxicity when birds or wildlife swallow or absorb them.
  3. Hunters who use lead ammunition should choose quality hunting-grade ammunition with a "bonded" for "partition" construction. Avoid frangible bullet types such as "cup and core" or "match" bullets, which fragment more easily.
  4. Ensure commercial meat processors properly clean equipment between animals to avoid lead contamination. All tools and surfaces should be cleaned with hot, soapy water and disinfected with a 10% chlorine bleach solution.


For information about lead and your health, contact ToxCall at 303-692-2606 or cdphe_toxcall@state.co.us.  

To request this web page information in a fact sheet, email cdphe_leadreports@state.co.us.