No more hot lead for California hunters. On July 1 California became the first state to ban all lead ammunition for hunting — the culmination of years of efforts to phase out toxic lead ammunition in the environment.

The statewide ban will significantly decrease the risk that leftover fragments of spent lead bullets and shot will poison wildlife such as hawks, owls, eagles and critically endangered California condors.

“Switching to nontoxic ammunition will save the lives of thousands birds and other wildlife and prevent hunting families from being exposed to toxic lead,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Top scientists, doctors and public-health experts from around the country have long called for a ban on lead hunting ammunition, citing overwhelming scientific evidence of the toxic dangers posed to people and wildlife.

Comprehensive scientific research led by University of California at Santa Cruz environmental toxicologists Donald Smith and Myra Finkelstein found that lead poisoning from spent ammunition is preventing the recovery of the endangered California condor.

“This landmark policy will have direct impacts on improving environmental and human health in California,” said Smith, a professor of microbiology and environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz.

“California’s lead ammunition ban for hunting is a crucial step toward a self-sustaining wild condor population and will protect other scavenging species across the state from the lethal effects of lead,” said Finkelstein, a UC Santa Cruz adjunct associate professor of microbiology and environmental toxicology.

Nonlead ammunition is widely available at gun and sporting-goods stores. Hunters will be able to choose from more than 55 manufacturers certified to sell lead-free ammunition in California. Lead ammunition is still allowed for target shooting at shooting ranges.

At least 15 other states have some restrictions on lead ammunition, but California’s statewide ban on lead ammunition for hunting is the most sweeping in U.S. history. The ban is the final step in the six-year process to phase out lead ammo after the passage of Assembly Bill 711 in 2013.

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