EarthTalk: Whats the big deal about lead in
hunting ammunition and fishing tackle? If an animal is going
to die anyway, its not going to get lead poisoning,
to the Center for Biological Diversity, lead is
an extremely toxic element that is entering the
food chain through widespread use of lead hunting
ammunition and fishing tackle, poisoning wildlife
and even threatening human health.
© KevinChang, courtesy Flickr
issue of lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle isnt
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 weve sensibly removed
from water pipes, gasoline, paint and other sources dangerous
to people, reports the non-profit Center for Biological
Diversity (CBD). Yet toxic lead is still entering
the food chain through widespread use of lead hunting ammunition
and fishing tackle, poisoning wildlife and even threatening
The group reports
that at least 75 wild bird species in the United Statesincluding
bald eagles, golden eagles, ravens and endangered California
condorsare routinely 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.
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
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 (EPA) denied the coalitions
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.
CBD (such as the National Rifle Association/NRA) are on
the offensive, supporting the Sportsmens Heritage
Act of 2012 (HR 4089), a bill that aims to open up more
federal land to hunting, limit the Presidents 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.
Get the Lead Out; Sportsmens
Heritage Act of 2012 on Govtrack.
NEW SET OF ANSWERS IS FEATURED EACH WEEK!
I have heard that fracking is becoming a major environmental
issue in the U.S. Which parts of the country are already
hosting fracking operations? Are there efforts underway
to stop the practice in specific states or across the country?
Fracturing, or "fracking," involves blasting
millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals
at high-pressure into sub-surface rock to create
fractures that facilitate the flow of recoverable
oil or gas. Opponents worry that the technique is
polluting groundwater and air and poisoning communities.
Pictured: Drinking water from a well near a fracking
© Michael Fitzgerald
for hydraulic fracturing, is a process whereby drillers
blast millions of gallons of water, sand and hazardous chemicals
at high-pressure into sub-surface rock formations to create
fractures that facilitate the flow of recoverable oil or
gas. The technique has proven so effective at reaching previously
hard-to-access reserves that it has helped spur a boom in
natural gas production around the country.
This influx of
domestic natural gas means lower home heating costs and
thousands of new jobs in the industry. But opponents point
to dozens of fracking-related accidents in recent years
and worry that the technique is polluting groundwater and
air and poisoning communitiesall to get at more fossil
fuels when wed all be better off moving more quickly
toward developing clean, renewable energy sources.
goes on all across the country, the Marcellus Shale, a layer
of sedimentary bedding under the Allegheny plateau that
spans nine northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, has become
Americas primary fracking grounds. Thanks to fracking
and other new extraction techniques, the gas industry is
now able to access the natural gas in the Shale and beginning
in 2006 commenced big extraction operations in parts of
western New York State, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and
elsewhere. Geologists estimate there may be as much as 489
trillion cubic feet of natural gas400 times what New
York State uses in a yearthroughout the Shale. The
race is now on to extract as much as possible as quickly
this very gold rush mentality that has led to many so-called
fraccidents in and around the Shale. The group
Earthjustice tracks and publicizes such incidents online
via its Fracking Gone Wrong campaign. They list
dozens of examples of tainted drinking water, polluted air
and industrial disasters caused or exacerbated by fracking
at or near extraction sites since operations began six years
Marcellus development has occurred in Pennsylvania, reports
of poisoned water, sick kids and dead animals have followed,
reports Marcellus Protest, an alliance of western Pennsylvania
organizations seeking to halt fracking operations. The group
coordinates anti-fracking efforts, organizes demonstrations
and produces educational materials, including the website
MarcellusShale.org, a clearinghouse on fracking and related
activism. Its advocacy work helped convince the Pittsburgh
city council to ban fracking there back in 2010 and is now
working to extend the ban to other areas in the region and
has not escaped Hollywood. The 2010 HBO film, Gasland, followed
Josh Fox around the U.S. on a quest to find out what impact
fracking was having on communities after he was asked to
lease his own land for hydraulic fracturing. And a forthcoming
Gus Van Sant film, Promised Land, starring Matt Damon focuses
on a small farming town that sells its agricultural land
to frackers and pays a heavy price in losing a lifestyle
and a livelihood while jeopardizing public health. Activists
hope these films will go a long way to convince Americans
and their elected officials to say no to more fracking.
SYNDICATED COLUMN ONLY ON AMERICAJR.COM