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Australian aborigines have adjusted to the modern times and the use of lead pellets is just one example, but we sometimes wonder whether they were better off stalking animals on foot, being able to tell when an emu or a kangaroo passed and what direction it tookby looking at the grass, tracking their prey to the ends of the world, and getting the job done without having to fire a single shot. Australian aborigines have always been famous as hunter-gatherers and many will still argue that there is nothing better than freshly caught meat.

The Hunter is Being Hunted

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In their bid to modernize themselves, indigenous hunters may have also exposed themselves to a problem running rampage in the developed world – the problem of lead poisoning. Hunters making use of lead pellets for game shooting in the Northern Territories, Australia could be exposing themselves to the dangers of lead. Using lead pellets is illegal when it comes to waterfowl hunting throughout the country, except for NT, where the indigenous population is allowed to hunt on aboriginal land.

Experts Seem to Agree

Steven Skov, a physician with the Center for Disease Control, says that NT was one of the few remaining places in the developed world which still allowed its hunters to use lead pellets for hunting water birds. This comes as a great cause of concern, particularly once the studies from the 90s are taken into account. According to studies, the magpie geese found in hunting areas had high lead levels in their tissues, primarily because of lying in the mud covered with discharged lead pellets and also because of being shot at using lead pellets. This lead then found its way into the stomach once the hunters made a meal out of their game, thereby leading to elevated levels of lead in the human body.

Lead Becomes Redundant

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Despite the apparent danger, lead was still being used, primarily because of the price advantage. However, even though the price gap narrowed and lead-free ammunition actually became economical, indigenous hunters continued to use lead. Dr.Skov argues that there is no reason to use the lead shot when better alternatives were available. “You should be able to use non-lead shot with no difference” he says, reiterating that playing with shotgun shells made using lead also put children at risk.

The Dangers of Lead

Lead poisoning is a serious condition that usually occurs over a period of months or years. Lead exposure presents a number of health issues which could be as trivial as fatigue or nausea or as serious as permanent mental conditions or death.

What Can You Do

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The simplest way to reduce the use of lead is to spread awareness. Educating the indigenous population on the dangers posed by lead and presenting lead substitutes is the surest way to reduce the use of lead from the community. Exploring regulatory measures and looking towards the government for assistance in the matter could also help in regulating the use of lead and reducing the danger it poses.

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