Research has demonstrated that intramuscularly embedded lead in humans and rats may cause direct plumbism, albeit rarely, and has identified risk factors to this end. To the authors' knowledge, this has not been investigated in wildlife, despite a high incidence of embedded lead in these animals secondary to cynegetic activities. Fourteen wildlife cases submitted to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory for cause-of-death determination had chronically embedded lead projectiles that were unrelated to the cause of death. Tissue lead levels were measured in all cases and revealed clinically significant hepatic lead levels in two cases. The results corroborate comparative literature and suggest that embedded lead fragments carry a low risk for direct plumbism, even in the face of risk factors such as fractures, inflammation, and projectile fragmentation. Wildlife morbidity and mortality from embedded lead is more commonly realized secondary to incidental ingestion and ballistic trauma rather than by direct toxicity.
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