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Environmental groups say 20 million birds die worldwide each year from eating bits of lead in animal carcasses, because many US hunters use lead ammunition which leaves 3,000 tons of toxic fragments in gut piles and unclaimed kills.
The dangers of lead have been well known for decades, and steps have been taken to prevent human consumption by removing it from paint, gasoline, pipes, children's jewelry and more.
A ban on hunters' use of lead shot for killing waterfowl was passed in the United States in the early 1990s because birds were being poisoned by ingesting the pieces that fell into waterways and ponds.
But the question of whether to do the same for hunters on land has thrust the eagle, the national symbol of America, into a fresh political battle over gun rights and environmental protection
On one side is the powerful US gun lobby, which disputes science on lead poisoning and insists that any measures to regulate lead ammunition would spell a ban on hunting in all its forms, infringe on gun rights and raise costs.
On the other is a dogged but weary wildlife protection movement that is pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to take steps to regulate the use of lead ammunition in order to protect birds and humans against lead poisoning
The NRA has urged Congress to "step in and ensure this restriction never happens," asserting that the effort is being headed by "gun-grabbers... disguised as nature lovers."
A House subcommittee in late February approved a bill that would prevent the EPA from taking action on the CBD's petition, and some senators with ties to sportsmen's groups are considering the same.
Burwell, who has been treating her eagle for three weeks and is ready to release her into the wild on Saturday, said she is not optimistic that the EPA will act.
"With the NRA pushing to prevent any type of regulation, the word on the wildlife side is it will never happen," she said.
"It depends on who has the most money. Doesn't it seem sometimes that that is who wins these things?"