Fishing, hunting lead poisons many animals and birds


Share
Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2012, 8:10 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
Dear EarthTalk: What's the big deal about lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle? If an animal is going to die anyway, it's not going to get lead poisoning, right? -- Bill Joyce, Euclid, Ohio

A: The issue of lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle isn't so much about lead contaminating the spoils of hunters and fishermen but about lead accumulating in our ecosystems and poisoning other animals that ingest it.

"Lead is an extremely toxic element that we've sensibly removed from water pipes, gasoline, paint and other sources dangerous to people," reports the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. "Yet toxic lead is still entering the food chain through widespread use of lead hunting ammunition and fishing tackle, poisoning wildlife and even threatening human health."

The group reports that at least 75 wild bird species in the United States — including bald eagles, golden eagles, ravens and endangered California condors — routinely are poisoned by spent lead ammunition.

Meanwhile, every year thousands of cranes, ducks, swans, loons, geese and other waterfowl ingest spent lead shot or lead fishing sinkers lost in lakes and rivers "often with deadly consequences."

"Animals that scavenge on carcasses shot and contaminated with lead bullet fragments, or wading birds that ingest spent lead-shot pellets or lost fishing weights mistaking them for food or grit, can die a painful death from lead poisoning, while others suffer for years from its debilitating effects," reports CBD.

Across the U.S., some 3,000 tons of lead are shot into the environment by hunters every year. Another 80,000 tons are released at shooting ranges, and 4,000 tons in fishing lures and sinkers are lost in ponds and streams. CBD estimates that as many as 20 million birds and mammals in the U.S. die every year as a result.

Of course, lead ammunition also poses health risks to people, especially those consuming hunted meat. "Lead bullets explode and fragment into minute particles in shot game and can spread throughout meat that humans eat," says CBD.

"Studies using radiographs show that numerous, imperceptible, dust-sized particles of lead can infect meat up to a foot and a half away from the bullet wound, causing a greater health risk to humans who consume lead-shot game than previously thought."

CBD launched its Get the Lead Out campaign in March 2012 to raise awareness about the issue and help build support for a federally mandated transition to non-toxic bullets, shot and fishing gear.

The coalition includes groups from 38 different states representing conservationists, birders, hunters, scientists, veterinarians, Native Americans and public employees. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied the coalition's request to take toxic lead out of hunting ammunition. In response, CBD and six other groups filed suit against EPA in June for refusing to address the problem.

Opponents of CBD (such as the National Rifle Association/NRA) are on the offensive, supporting the Sportsmen's Heritage Act of 2012 (HR 4089), a bill that aims to open up more federal land to hunting, limit the President's ability to invoke the Antiquities Act to designate new protected lands, and prevent the EPA from regulating ammunition containing lead, among other provisions.

The bill recently passed a floor vote in the House of Representatives, but political analysts doubt it will make it through the Senate.

Contacts: CBD's "Get the Lead Out," biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/get_the_lead_out/; Sportsmen's Heritage Act of 2012 on Govtrack, govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4089.
EarthTalk is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E/The Environmental Magazine, emagazine.com. Send questions to earthtalk@emagazine.com.














 



Local events heading








  Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.




(More History)