Birds are still dying as a result of lead used in shotgun pellets, despite a change in the law to limit its impact, reports The Independent.
A study of 300 waterfowl sampled at four sites around Britain in 2010-11 revealed that 34% had elevated levels of lead in their blood.
The study is published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.
The Government sought to tackle the problem by introducing the Environmental Protection (Restriction on Use of Lead Shot) (England) Regulations 1999 which restricts the use of lead pellets in areas around important wetland sites and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs). However, the new study appears to show that the law has largely been ineffective.
When lead is eaten by birds it affects their nervous system, resulting in paralysis of the stomach which eventually restricts their ability to eat and can cause death. The current study shows that lead in shotgun pellets is most likely the cause.
Conservationists at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) based at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire believe that shotgun users admit that they often break the rules.
Martin Spray is the chief executive of the WWT.
"Despite the law, brought in over a decade ago to protect wetland birds, nothing has changed. Clearly an effective solution is long overdue," he told The Independent.
Experts believe that the answer to the problem lies in banning the use of lead altogether, forcing shotgun owners to use non-lead based alternatives.
Chris Perrins is the Queen's Warden of the Swans.
"Here we are nearly 30 years on and we are still using (lead shot)... We don't need lead and yet we're increasingly adding lead to the environment year by year," he said.
Lead was banned from use in angling weights in 1988.
Birds still at risk from lead poisoning despite shotgun laws (The Independent)