Lead has been used by humans in various forms throughout the ages. From cooking utensils and beauty to commercial and industrial applications, this deadly toxin found its way into all walks of life before humans woke up and realized the danger that it posed in front of humanity and its future generations. Lead was consequently banned in the United States by the mid-nineties, but somewhat bafflingly, it is still used in bullets used to hunt small animals and game birds and in fish tackle. And this is when lead free ammunition is easily and readily available!
The case of lead poisoning is nothing new. Ask any resident of Flint on the dangers of lead and they would probably tell you horror stories as they recount their experience of having to deal with one of the worst health disasters in recent U.S. history. As a society, we seem to be ignorant to the dangers of lead, and that’s a huge surprise considering that agencies have been trying to promote lead free ammunition and educate people on the dangers of lead and lead poisoning for decades.
Bald eagles are the latest victims of lead with cases being reported all over the country. These birds often feed on carcasses that were killed by hunters using lead based ammunition and end up getting exposed to the dangers of lead. The problem is particularly concerning in the Midwest during deer hunting season as hunters often leave gut piles behind which are then scavenged by bald eagles.
One such bald eagle just succumbed to its death in Arlington despite the best efforts of the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center on the very same day when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinkecanceled a last-minute action taken by President Barack Obama to phase out lead based fish tackle and ammunition in national wildlife refuges by the year 2022.
Suzanne West, Director of Sarvey Wildlife Care Center recounts the plight of the dying bird. “This bird made very heart-breaking crying sounds all throughout the day and night. We can only try and hope for the best.” Such was the level of toxicity that the poor creature was subjected to that despite their best efforts, the center’s personnel couldn’t save the bird or reverse the effects of poisoning.
The order issued by the Obama administration was intended to protect these very birds from lead poisoning and promote the use of lead free ammunition. This ammunition, sometimes referred to as green ammo, is produced from frangible bullets made from nontoxic plastic or metal composite materials. However, reports state that Zinke believed that the order would have led to an increase in fishing, hunting and recreational shooting on lands that are currently managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The former congressman also highlighted the importance of consulting local communities and industry experts before passing such actions.
And it isn’t just the bald eagles or nature that is a victim of lead. Small children have also tested positive for lead poisoning after consuming meat from animals that were shot using lead ammunition. “It is bad for wildlife and it’s bad for kids,” says LessanaLahner, a Sarvey veterinarian. She urges using lead free ammunition such as lead-free frangible projectiles or copper bullets, both of which are proven save for wildlife and non-toxic for humans.