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Today, most of us know firsthand what lead poisoning looks and feels like. Thousands have been affected in cities like Flint and news channels have been quick to educate society on the perils of lead poisoning. We’ve started to replace those old pipelines, get rid of lead paints, take preventive measures and also educate our kids. We’re just starting to do our bit as a society to remove this menace once and for all. But why do we ignore our bullets, even when we know that we have lead free ammunition available?

Poisoning the Future?

Andrea Goodnight, a vet at the Oakland Zoo, works with lead poisoning literally on a daily basis as she is tasked with treating California condors testing positive for lead in their blood. When the lead levels become too high, these condors cannot hold their food, and this means that they literally starve to death. Says Goodnight, “a very clinically ill bird is very distressing. They’re weak, they fall over, they just can’t feed themselves… it’s an absolutely horrible way to die.”

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Treatment can help save these birds, but most treatments are quite stressful, and the moment they’ve been re-exposed to lead poisoning, they must go through the tormenting experience all over again. One of the main sources of lead poisoning for condors is ammunition. Lead bullets are a cost effective measure compared to lead free ammunition, but they always leave damage and destruction in their wake. Tiny fragments get scattered in the entrails left behind, and this acts as a source of food for numerous wild creatures. A 2003 study revealed that before lead bullets were banned by California in the year 2008, 30,000 lead carcasses were left behind each year by hunters!!

A Lack of Clarity

“I really strongly think that, given the right information, they will move toward using non-lead ammunition,” says Leland Brown, a non-lead hunting educator working with the Oregon Zoo. Hunters have voluntarily started switching to lead free bullets and those who still resort to using the lead bullet would do so once they comprehend the risk it poses to their own families and to the wildlife.

Do Bans Help?

Hunting waterfowls with lead bullets was banned in the year 1991. California began the process to ban lead bullets for certain types of hunting in the year 2015, which shall then extend to all types of hunting by the year 2o19. Minnesota is considering banning small-game hunting with lead ammunition. More than 34 states have regulations in place to prevent certain types of hunting with lead. Despite all efforts, most types of hunting still use lead bullets, and the existing patchwork of lead regulations don’t help. Moreover, simply implementing bans doesn’t help until hunters can be educated about the true dangers posed by lead.

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Can We Afford Lead Free Ammunition?

Gun advocates believe that banning lead ammunition will mean that many hunters will not be able to afford lead fee bullets. Even though hunting may have declined in California since the ban in the condor range, the decrease really hasn’t done anything to slow down the sale of lead free ammunition. Some of these frangible projectiles may cost twice as much as lead bullets, but there are lead free bullets that can be compared to the price of the lead bullet. In fact, some turn out to be cheaper as well!

Studies also confirmed that those using the lead free bullet don’t have to sacrifice or compromise on performance either. “The few times since then when I’ve used lead ammunition, I’ve actually been less pleased. It didn’t do what I had gotten used to non-lead ammo doing,” says Brown, praising the performance of a lead free bullet.

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