Lead Bullets and Lead Poisoning

This seems to be the year of lead awareness and lead-poisoning at the same time, doesn’t it?

First there was the integration of the Renovation, Repair, & Painting Rule on April 22nd, 2010, followed by its subsequent extension through October 1st. Shortly after, Nigeria reported its own lead epidemic. Hundreds of Nigerian children died from lead-poisoning brought on by illegal gold mining and the ensuing release of lead, which found its way to the soil and water.

In early July, the Detroit Free Press blew the whistle on the city’s mismanaged lead prevention program. Many inner-city children suffered irreversible damage as a result of the medical neglect associated with the shift in regulations.

Recently, landlords have been subjected to huge fines in Hartford and Boston for not providing tenants with accurate information concerning lead in their buildings.

And let’s not forget China. Nothing really new has come out about their lead issue, but the problems have been well-documented. They might as well sprinkle lead on their cereal in the morning. That is—of course—assuming they don’t already. No offense China.

If you’ve done a Google search for lead-poisoning in the last two months—which is what I do for a living—, you would find articles on all the above stories.

But not today. Today there was a new story when I made my way through the search engines.

Groups Seek Ban on Lead in Sporting Ammunition

lead bullet

Several activist groups are petitioning to have lead bullets banned from commercial use—meaning they would be forbidden for hunters to use. It should be noted that the United States military has already started transitioning to “green bullets,” which are composed of tungsten and tin. We can now boast that our warriors use environmentally friendly weapons.

So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Felicity Barringer of the New York Times writes:

“The petitioners argue that “it is now incontrovertible fact” that lead fragments in the bodies of animals shot with lead bullets or lead pellets are “a serious source of lead exposure to scavenging animals” and a health risk to humans who eat hunters’ kills.”

Hunters who kill and eat their prey are at more of a risk for lead-poisoning. This seems like common sense, but it’s not something most people would think of when they’re shooting dinner.

One lead bullet can have a profound affect. Granted it’s not an easy concept to grasp. It’s not something that I’ve spent a lot of time pondering before today either. After all, my hunting experience begins and ends with a round of Big Buck Hunter at happy hour. But if you subscribe to the Malcolm Gladwell theory that little changes can have big effects then you could see where this would have major ecological consequences.

An animal is shot and killed. Its body is never retrieved. Vultures feed on the decomposing body, ingesting lead-fragments in the process. Thus begins a vicious cycle. The vultures become poisoned by the lead-fragments from the original victim and eventually succumb to the toxin themselves. They, in turn, poison the vultures that will at some point feed on them and on and on it goes.

This doesn’t even begin to breach the notion that, all the while, lead fragments from the decomposed animals are leaching into the soil, endangering plant life and anyone that comes in contact with the now toxic soil. It is indeed a never-ending cycle.

Over time, hunting areas, shooting ranges, and war zones become hotbeds for lead-exposure.

Suddenly, green bullets don’t sound so bad do they? Unless, of course, you enjoy eating lead-burgers for dinner.