Get the Lead Out of Bullets

Nov 01, 2018 · 115 comments
Martha McAfee (San Francisco )
I remember my father taking me duck hunting when I was about 7. "We" shot 3 ducks and took them home, where I learned how to pluck them. I also remember my mother, whose degree is in chemistry, carefully using tweezers to remove all the birdshot. She was if the opinion that any lead exposure was too much for her children. That was nearly 50 years ago. I suspect part of the reason, aside from lead mining interests, is that people who don't clean what they kill don't think much about potential toxins in their wild meat.
Bruce Rocheleau (DeKalb, IL)
Yes, Zinke is currently under review for his ethics but his enthusiasm for lead bullets including in National Wildlife Refuges & other Federal lands is discussed in Reasons 6, 39, & 84 in my blog on documented reasons why he is the worst & should be removed. See
Ebbe Thygesen (Denmark)
Fake news : In Norway,lead bullits had been forbidden for many years for the reasons mentioned. However,competent research showed fake research were used for prohibition.
Steve (SW Mich)
If you put enough poison into the algea population, small algea eating creatures become poisoned. Those small creatures get eaten by larger creatures. It goes on. We are seeing the results of the poisons we dump in the food we eat, the larger fish and other foods we eat from our lakes and oceans. As a society, we have to ask ourselves if we want to ignore the impacts of dumping and poisoning our environment (in the interest of jobs, as this administration will argue), or we want to control those poisons with the costs of regulation.
Dan (Kansas)
@Steve Harvesting the oceans for human food is unsustainable globicide, as bad as using them for garbage dumps. We are blind, sweeping all that our nets can reach from the unknown deep: 'First mapping of global marine wilderness shows just how little remains' July 26, 2018, Cell Press ""Thanks to a warming climate, even some places that were once safe due to year-round ice cover can now be fished." The findings highlight an urgent need for action to protect what remains of marine wilderness, the researchers say. Such an effort requires international environmental agreements to recognize the unique value of marine wilderness and sets targets for its retention."
voltairesmistress (San Francisco)
Such an important editorial on an oft-ignored issue. Thank you, NYT, for reminding me of yet another issue I should be working on, and one conservatives and liberals just might be able to agree on!
Hk (Planet Earth)
Better yet, ban bullets altogether! It would save the lives of birds, animals ... and people. As far as the NRA and other conservative ‘strict constructionists’ of the 2nd amendment, nowhere does it mention the word ‘bullets.’ You wouldn’t dare try to read into it something that it doesn’t say, would you?
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Simple solution. Not feasible, but simple. Lead can be melted on your stove in a sauce pan. The lead can be poured into molds to make bullets. Brass cartridges can be reused. If you ban the sale of ammunition, it would take decades before no more would be shot into the wide open spaces. Anyway depriving people of ammunition would amount to depriving them of firearms, which would require amending the second amendment. So you are back to the same obstacle to eliminating the private ownership of guns.
Dan (Kansas)
@Hk Yes, because things like alcohol prohibition and the 50 year long war on drugs (so far) have worked so well... at encouraging otherwise law-abiding citizens to scoff at the law itself in general while filling and expanding our incarceration/industrial complex at rates higher than any other nation on earth yet still doing little to slow the ongoing carnage by urban inter-gang guerrilla war (and the resulting crossfire deaths) which make for the largest part of US murder rates. You should watch this entire video on how weapons and ammunition of all kinds are made BY HAND in Pakistan. But since you seem to think ammo could be banned, you might want to go straight to @ 3:58
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
The mere fact that a deranged American can walk into a gun shop, “legally” purchase an AR-15 assault rifle and then proceed to murder 11 people in a synagogue tells me that I am on safe grounds putting off all my concerns about lead bullets and woodpeckers for consideration on another day.
Chris (Missouri)
I wonder how deadly the copper alloy projectiles are when they end up buried in a tree. Anyone have any information on that?
Jacqueline (Colorado)
I own 10 guns and I definitely support this idea. Liberals think we are all crazy people who love killing, but I've actually never met a hunter who relished the killing more than the hunt.
carl bumba (mo-ozarks)
Well, looks like I won't be serving the family turkey vulture this Thanksgiving.... (Joking aside, the article is overdue - especially regarding lead shot.)
Boethius (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Assuming the truth of the writer’s claim that most hunters are the “staunchest” of conservationists, and presumably eating their poisoned prey, I’m ok with lead bullets.
MJ (Northern California)
@Boethius You missed the part that there's lead in the remains of animals that hunters don't cart away, so t's not just hunters, it's other wildlife. But maybe you don't care about them, either.
Larry9 (New York)
I believe in fair play. Let's give the wild animals (the 4 legged kind) guns so they can shoot back.
Dan G (Vermont)
Perhaps we should remove the bans on lead in plumbing and food cans too, Mr. Zinke?
andy (houston)
Get the lead out ! Now! It is a killer of wildlife.
Todd Howell (Orlando)
So let's calculate the amount of pollution. We hunt on 1600 acres. 6" of topsoil across that space weighs 3.2 trillion pounds. We might shoot 5 times during deer season which equals 8/100ths of a pound of lead introduced in that space. The environment matters, but this a isn't even a rounding error.
Mike (Republic Of Texas)
If an animal or bird consumes a carcass with lead pellets or bullets, you are saying the scavenger dies from ingesting the lead. They do not pass the lead in the normal fashion? If the projectile is too large to pass, wouldn't it be too large to consume? Lead is a fairly stable element, so it won't break down quickly or slowly, if at all. Exactly how long would it take for a double 00 pellet to break down? A copper jacketed bullet? Survey says, "A really, really long time." Stories like this, are why liberal ideas never get off the ground. This is just stupid.
Robert (Elko)
@Mike: birds that scavenge have no problem getting pellets, bullets or bullet fragments down and of course most of it passes through. On the way tiny amounts get dissolved and that's enough. It's why we don't use lead pipes for plumbing anymore and those pipes only saw neutral pH water not stomach acid. Both lead and copper shot will take generations to break down the point is that the copper is relatively harmless. Check your plumbing and you'll probably see some copper pipe or fittings. Getting lead out of ammunition used for hunting is hardly stupid unlike the reasons and "science" behind not.
oogada (Boogada)
@Mike So, Mike, did you read this article? Or anything, anywhere about lead ammunition and gear? Because, yes, just like when people eat or drink even microscopic amounts of lead, it accumulates in their tissues and effects them while they are alive, and potentially effects anything that eats what remains after death. Like you, when you eat Great Lakes fish you import there to the Great and Apparently Deeply Ignorant Republic of Texas. You can't possibly have read about Flint water, lead paint in old homes, tainted dog food and treats, and still believe any bird that eats lead shot just drops it out, no harm, no foul. C'mon Mike, you can do better... You better do better, for your own sake.
Butch (PA)
@Mike, Drop some lead into some hydrochloric acid and see how stable it is. You can’t just dismiss science and evidence with opinion and beliefs. We probably had 6 Bald Eagles die in our county this summer. There were several articles in our local paper about the problem.
DM (Dallas)
Maybe Zinke got that way from eating too much leaded venison?
Son Of Liberty (nyc)
Hunters should rejoice over this common sense proposal, since using nontoxic ammunition will still allow them to do the same amount of killing. This proposal will just stop gratuitous deaths and cruelty to other species...Or is it that men like Ryan Zinke want to be cruel when they hunt? PS-For those in the GOP who no longer believe in science or facts. The lead goes into our food and water too...So lead NO GOOD for people.
Carol (No. Calif.)
Yes. Please. No more lead in ammunition. We want to keep our condors on this Earth.
Hmmm (Seattle )
How about we just ban ALL bullets and save some human lives too??
J Trent (Seattle)
According to a wildlife biologist I met, we would have giant condors all over the West if we removed lead bullets.
Objectively Subjective (Utopia's Shadow)
The problem is that hunters tend to vote Republican and Republicans like messing up the environment just to “own the libs.” See eg. “coal rolling” In a party where global warming is considered a hoax, coal is wonderful, environmental regulations are burdens, and solar, wind, and nuclear are for wusses, what are the chances that Republicans will support not having lead in their food supply? Probably zero. Which may explain a lot...
Crossing Overhead (In The Air)
This is hardly a subject worth wasting time on considering all the other issues in the world. Hoping a wolf doesn’t eat a lead bullet when consuming a carcass. Must have been a slow news day......,,but it wasn’t.
katherinekovach (sag harbor)
Hunters don't care about lead in their ammunition and are in no way conservationists. It's not about saving animals; it's all about the thrill of killing them.
gerrard0 (Charlottesville, VA)
State Regulations — Lead-Free Hunting There will be a complete ban on the use of lead ammunition for any hunting purposes anywhere in the state by July 1, 2019. Click here for more information. Colorado: Non-toxic shot required in the Alamosa/Monte Vista/Baca National Wildlife Refuge Complex and when hunting ducks, geese or coots.
Deborah (NY)
Please see this report on the many declining American bird species and dire projections on even common birds Lead is one poison we have been using indiscriminately, but there are many others. We have long thought of ourselves as the stewards of the earth, but acted with complete carelessness. Scientists have recently found that we have exterminated 75% of our insects since the 1970's . It's time for every person to look in the mirror, assume responsibility, and begin work to remove every deadly threat in their backyard. In the next decades we are going to discover the true nature of man. In the final analysis, what good are we?
Allan (California)
Lead poisoning from bullets is the leading cause of death among wild California condors.
CharlesFrankenberry (Philadelphia)
Gotta love the humans.
Louis James (Belle Mead)
After much resistance we eventually took it out of gasoline.
oogada (Boogada)
I bet somewhere there are hunters and fishermen who care deeply about the environment, about keeping things running relatively well, maybe even saving enough to share a little bit with the kids. But your "hunters are the primo environmentalists of the universe" rings about as true as Trump's Christianity. As Evangelicals' Christianity, for that matter. Its a show. Its all a fraud designed to get them what they really want. The evidence? Well, your bullets is good for a start. In what way is it sporting to shoot your victim with poisoned ammunition? Or to leave the forest and the fields littered with poisoned meat and and enough lead in some areas to create a serious hazard. Or how about this? Fishermen ready to go to the wall over little blobs of lead designed to keep their bait underwater. As if there are so few heavy things in the world, its worth poisoning our rapidly diminishing fresh water and fish just because they're used to doing it with lead. There is no rational reason to fail to ban lead gear and ammunition. None. Except that hunters and fishermen want it that way. Just because. And they're willing to play the Guardians of the Wilderness card to save themselves the deep emotional pain of changes they will cease to notice after the first season. Hunters may be good guys, maybe not. But they are very self-centered and environmentally oblivious when it suits them. And dishonest.
John Doe (NYC)
Like most things, it always comes down to money.
Paul Central CA, age 59 (Chowchilla, California)
The last two generations of humans have killed an estimated 50% of the wildlife on this planet. Lead or not, what do you think the next two generations is going to do?
h dierkes (morris plains nj)
wind turbines probably kill more eagles and birds than lead. ban wind turbines and build nuclear plants.
Gnome Chomsky (New York, NY)
Good luck getting any kind of ban on lead in the near future. No doubt after this article the Trump Administration will elevate Elmer Fudd to the Department of the Interior.
Seeing all of this from a distance and bombarded with all the different articles on a multitude of topics published by the NYT, one major take away, flying way above many of our daily concerns, is that the presence of more and more fairly unregulated human beings are transforming the surface of the Earth, including the oceans, into a gigantic pile of garbage. In 200 years we have greatly altered what, through the wonder of evolution, was heavenly living quarters for us humans. I find this to be a testament to the complexity, intricacy, and fragility of it all since 200 years is the size of a comma in the book of the Universe. We are on the verge of being greatly tested and one immediate goal is harnessing what would amount to, for a while, an infinite energy source. In my uneducated way, perhaps solar stations revolving around the Sun coupled with energy storage and energy transmission back to Earth. In other words challenges that will be costly and only achievable if ALL human band together, rather than fragment into neo-neanderthal tribes. This will necessitate a complete reevaluation in what is of importance for human survival over a very short period of time, something never done by human beings. I am not even sure we are fully aware of what's coming, vaguely thinking and completely unprepared about the known unknowns (climate change and human population), let alone unknown unknowns. Good luck to us all, and primarily our future generations!
Catherine (Massachusetts)
Get the lead out of bullets - yes, of course do that. But please, also consider - stop terrorizing and killing wildlife altogether (humans stalking animals in the woods terrorizes them - causes them terrible fear). Animals in the wild have enough to contend with, such as their shrinking habitats and our vast road systems. They don't need the added pressure of being stalked by humans with high-powered rifles assisted by scopes. If there truly are some over-populations of deer, there are humane, non-violent ways of dealing with the problem - again, if that really is the problem. Wildlife is blamed for overgrazing - but we are the ones cutting down forests and overgrazing cattle and sheep on public lands. And while we're at it, we need to stop eating animals, too. Animal agriculture is killing the planet and again, robbing wildlife of their habitats. CAFO's (confined animal feeding operations - "factory farms") are hellish nightmares for animals. We can try to at least reduce our consumption of animal products, one meal at a time. Plant-based eating is better for our health, animals and the planet, and it's delicious, too.
Todd (Wisconsin)
I hunted for years, and find the practice unconscionable now. I have known many hunters that were wonderful conservationists and very environmentally aware. For every one of those, I know five of the "brown is down" types who are actively hostile to environmental protection. I guess hunting will slowly die off on its own. There are so few young hunters, its becoming irrelevant.
i.worden (Seattle)
Let's not overlook the lead that is present in shooting ranges across the country, a hazard to shooters and employees of the range.
BillBo (NYC)
There are some amazing YouTube videos of a big and beautiful bald eagle being saved from a forest because of lead poisoning. The man who saves it thinks it’s too late that but against all odds the eagle recovered and was returned to the wild some months later. It’s a real tear jerker series. Seeing how weak and catatonic they become should be enough for thinking people to want a ban on lead.
Marty (Nashville, TN)
The last time I went bird hunting (about 3 years ago) lead shot was already banned and had been banned for a while. Go to any sporting goods store and check it out for yourself. You have to buy copper coated tungsten shot that is still not as effective as lead shot for a "clean" kill. So I'm a bit confused about this article. I understand and agree with the issue of lead shotgun shot, its abundance and its poisoning affect if it is illegally used. The pellets are small, uncoated and easily consumed. But to apply this same argument to hunting rounds that are cased in a copper jacket seems a bait and switch argument. Hunters using rifles will not shoot more than 1 or 2 rounds at any animal they're targeting. Most hunters will never take a shot for lack of a target. So the amount of copper cased lead bullets deposited in the environment by hunters has got to be minuscule. So in my opinion, the author is either misinformed or has another agenda and is being disingenuous to the readers.
Andy (Houston)
@Marty wish it were so, but studies where hunters bring their game in to be x-rayed, showed the bullets fragmenting inside the game taken and lead shards throughout.
PK (New York)
As a hunter, thanks for speaking up to the hunting crowd on this critical issue, your voice carries weight. Naturally Trump and Co rescinded the Obama ban on lead shot used on Federal lands. Why? So a few manufacturers could add a fraction more profit, or more NRQ paranoia...senseless. Lead is a threat to health in every way as you point out--to us, our children, and wildlife.
Shannon (Nevada)
I hunt with non-lead calibers for all the reasons stated in this article. Let's go non-lead, as I can't imagine any group except lead mines and home bullet makers opposing this.
mike hailstone (signpost corner)
Before promoting copper bullets you should look up the large number of animals and fish that copper is extremely toxic to. Boat bottoms are usually coated with copper anti fouling paint. Good for the boat...... not good for the environment.
Joel Geier (Oregon)
The real obstacles to this sensible proposal are gun hobbyists (gunners), not hunters. These groups have quite different interests and priorities. I live next door to an Oregon state game management area where lead shot has been banned for upland bird hunting and waterfowl hunting for more than 20 years. Hunters have adapted and it continues to be one of the most popular hunting locations in the state. I appreciate the thoughtful comments about hunters concerning effectiveness of copper bullets for big game. There are tradeoffs and there may be a learning curve as Mark from Montana points out. However responsible hunters are generally willing to work with and adapt to these issues, because they recognize the conservation importance. Recreational gunners are a whole different story. People who like to play with semi-automatic rifles and pistol can go through astonishing amounts of ammunition in a single shooting session. One neighbor told me that his annual ammo budget is over $1500! These people don't want to see their ammo prices increased. Many of them also tend to fixate on particularly deadly forms of ammo (e.g. so-called "cop-killer" rounds). I'm glad to see responsible hunters such as Mr. Minick, and several commenters here, beginning to speak up on behalf of their own interests with regard to ammo and conservation. In truth, their concerns are not the same ones that the NRA and its operatives in the Republican Administration are pushing.
mark (montana)
As a long time hunter that has made the switch from lead to copper bullets I think its important to point out a few things concerning the use of copper projectiles. First, in order to be effective a bullet has to maintain a certain impact velocity to expand sufficiently to deliver a humane and instant killing wound. Much of this is done when a bullet expands delivering "shock" to a broad area. Copper is harder than lead (and lighter) so it needs to be driven at a much faster speed to maintain that velocity. Simply put, shots with copper bullets must be limited to ranges that will ensure high enough impact velocities to do the job. Copper bullets are very poor choices for longer range situations - the range is dependent on the the caliber/bullet weight and the powder pushing the bullet. And the animal and where the bullet strikes it. Many try to use copper bullets like they do lead and the results are discouraging at best and inhumane at worst. So. One must need to understand the impact velocities at various ranges with the caliber/bullet/load chosen and limit any shots to that maximum effective range or less. One other problem associated with copper is that many calibers are not offered commercially with copper bullets (no demand?) so hunters are left with the option of hand loading. This is probably the best way to get a good grip on the issue, but is beyond many casual hunters. I support non-toxic ammunition, but there is a learning curve that accompanies its humane use.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
The devil is in the details. It would appear that the mass and density of that mass is crucial in determining good substitutes for lead bullets. Momentum and force depend upon mass and velocity. Reducing one requires increasing the other to achieve the same result. It’s a little more complicated than that because of other factors but that is the core concern.
Joel Geier (Oregon)
@mark Thank you, I appreciate your thoughtful comments on this proposal.
tom (midwest)
Decent article but misses a couple of points. As hunters (this year was my 55th game bird opener), we had no problem switching to non toxic shot (steel and bismuth) in most cases as it became available and costs came down. For big game, copper has come on the market gradually and this year was the first that I can recall that all calibers were available and further, finally came down in price to match lead. There is every reason to shoot non toxic bullets and shot. However, for bird hunting in the woods and other bird hunting in uplands, the research is thin at best. Further, we were part of the blood lead study, selected because of our consumption of wild game including big game shot with lead. We have done our own processing and never take it to a processor. Our lead levels were not statistically different from those who do not eat wild game even with a lifetime of eating game. We disagree with the CDC author simply because what about game shot with non toxic shot or bullets? We also disagree with Zinke and the current administration. There is no reason why non toxic shot and bullets should not be the default in almost every case. Hunters should be supporting rather than opposing such measures.
JessiePearl (Tennessee)
"So why do we poison the very places and animals we love?" Good question. Thank you for asking. I personally don't hunt, but frankly I've wondered the same thing for decades...
Bill Wilson (Boston)
Thank you Mr. Minick for this column. When Zinke rescinded the ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle in some US refuges there was a photo-op at signing. Not only was the NRA present but so were reps of leading hunting advocacy grounds including the organization that has saved more waterfowl than any in the world, Ducks Unlimited. It is scientifically proven that lead ammunition and fishing tackle are major threats to wildlife - including eagles, osprey, loons, vultures, coyotes, wolves and fish. I wrote objections to the conservation groups with reps smiling alongside Zinke. If they replied the defense was that the cost of non-lead ammunition was their major reason for support. One of the reasons the ban was seen as objectionable was that it would lead to a broader lead ban and the higher cost of non-lead ammunition would have a major impact on gun owners that shoot at target ranges. The increased cost of non-lead ammo for their high capacity hand guns and AKs would be significant. Once again the NRA and the gun/ammo manufacturers are dictating US policy. My father was a WWII US Marine Corps combat vet. He taught me to hunt. He taught me two things about guns - no shotgun or rifle needs more than two or three rounds respectively - no one but the police or serving military should have handguns or automatic weapons, these are for killing people. After over 50 years in the field I gave up both hunting and guns. I cannot be part of these lies. Birding is better.
Paul Lief (Stratford, CT)
If hunters are the staunchest conservationists one would think they wouldn't need laws to influence them to use non-lead bullets. The extra cost? If you can buy a gun and the equipment to hunt, you can pay a few bucks more for the experience of hunting. The NRA & the Interior Secretary are against a ban? Really? For what earthly reason?
Paul Rod (Brazil)
@Paul Lief to answer your good question, we should use one of the main principles used by detectives when investigating a crime: "Follow the money". Any ban on whatever product will cause a great loss to some people who were making a profit from that product. The Lead Mines owners must surely have put whatever pre$$ure on govt. officials to avoid lead ban. This is what should be investigated. For all the good reasons we can read in so many intelligent comments on this article, there is really no good reason why lead should not be banned from ammo.
Mary M (Raleigh)
It is amazing that with all that is known about the dangers of lead toxicity, lead bullets are still for sale. Hunters should should recognize that any animal killed will be eaten, if not by them then by other wildlife. Non-ingested bullets will slowly erode back into the soil, making it toxic for nearby plants. Lead bullets should have been banned years ago.
David Martin (Vero Beach, Fla.)
Lead in birds is a serious problem that's easily remedied. The Obama administration's ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands and waters had taken forever to develop and approve, and was based on sound science. California has the right idea with broad state restrictions.
Earthling (Pacific Northwest)
Wildlife is struggling to survive. Recent reports indicate that humans have reduced wildlife populations by some 60% in recent years. Climate change is further threatening many species with extinction, as is toxification of the environment. Birds are particularly vulnerable. Not only should lead be removed from ammunition, hunters should stop killing wildlife and allow Nature to re-establish a balance.
B. Honest (Puyallup WA)
@Earthling Presently, due to the Imbalances caused by predator removal there are some places that have overpopulations of deer or elk due to lots of understory growth with all of the wildfires over recent years. Hunting is needed to keep some of these populations in check so that they dont go and overgraze and then end up sick and starving when there is to many deer and not enough food to go around. That is when heavy disease can wipe out large sections of population. Hunting and conservation do go hand in hand, at least for responsible hunters who have an eye towards game management and proper tending of the herds. Getting lead out of the system is a no-brainer and even though there is some added cost to it, there are no hidden costs to it like with lead bullets and weights: the silent, hidden death toll after the humans go home. This is something that humans will need to do, unilaterally, of course, in order to stop poisoning themselves and the environment if we are serious about sustainable hunting. It is a Little thing we can do, with big payoffs. There is no reason other than money to Not change, and the people who are heavy into selling lead are, obviously, not so caring about people's lives. You cannot be, selling poison used for weapons or batteries.
Sean (CT)
@Earthling One thing I've learned is that nature rarely balances itself out so smoothly. Even before humans showed up on the scene, nature was rarely, if even in perfect equilibrium. Weak species were purged and the strong survived, and everything was always in flux.
minkybear (Cambridge)
@B. Honest Nope, hunting is not "needed." It provides a sick thrill to these self-proclaimed "conservationists" who can then pat themselves on the back for killing defenseless animals. Nature is perfectly capable of self-correcting, if only people would get out of the way.
NorthernVirginia (Falls Church, VA)
This seems like a solution looking for a problem. According to Outdoor Life, hunting in the US peaked in 1982 when over 17 million hunted. The trend continues downward. Meanwhile, wildlife of many kind have had a remarkable recovery, thanks to a combination of banning DDT, conservation, effective game management, and the suburbanization of forestland and farmland. Most of the fighting in the Civil War took place in Virginia. One historian calculated that the armies shot a man’s weight in lead for every soldier killed, and there is still lead just under the surface throughout many parts of Virginia. Thus, it is difficult to imagine that hunters could add appreciably to the lead in the groundwater in Virginia. The author makes a good point about eating wild game, but what the animal ate (e.g. a diet rich in golf course grass treated with herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides) concerns me more than what brought the animal to my table. Nevertheless, lead in wild meat is a real concern. At least on the east coast, eagles, ospreys, blue herons, Canada geese, and all other waterfowl have dramatically increased their numbers in the past fifty years. So have vultures, which probably eat thousands of roadkills for every hunter’s kill involving a lead bullet. The problem just does not seem that pressing.
Jim Crabb (St Louis MO)
Lead in the ground doesn't migrate. It will not pollute the groundwater just because it under the surface. Airborne lead dust is dangerous, so is ingesting it. I worked at an old National Lead facility in St Louis. When Dutch Boy paint was no longer made with lead all the old equipment was buried in the parking lot 100 feet away from a large storm ditch known as River de Pere. I asked if there were sample wells and was informed that it doesn't dissolve in groundwater.
Joel Geier (Oregon)
@Jim Crabb The idea that lead in the ground won't migrate is not correct. Lead in elemental (metallic) form is indeed negligibly soluble. However the lead oxide film that forms on lead bullets in the near-surface environment (soils) has significant solubility, as do some other lead compounds formed for example when carbonates are present (as for example, in many Midwestern and Eastern U.S. states with limestone bedrock). Once these compounds come in contact with groundwater, they will indeed dissolve and spread in the soil, be taken up by plants, and potentially concentrate higher up in the food chain.
Mr. Grieves (Nod)
@NorthernVirginia Weird that anyone would question elimination of lead-based products—at least not err on the side of caution—when the science of lead-poisoning is settled. Anyway, recent studies—and there is a lot of them—have yielded a preponderance of evidence indicating you’re wrong; lead bullets are indeed a problem, and the problem is significant enough to warrant a solution.
Bruce1253 (San Diego)
I have a better idea: Let's ban all ammunition, ammunition components, reloading supplies & chemicals, as well as tools. It won't be perfect, but in a few years most guns will be expensive bricks. Animals will be safer, we will be safer. If the death rate goes down far enough maybe the Supreme Court will react to the changing mood in the country and up hold the ban. BTW to date 12,210 have been killed in the US by guns, there have been 2,934 young people killed or injured by guns, and 302 mass shootings.
Meredith (New York)
@Bruce1253..... that's just what we need continual op eds on-- banning all the equipment available that's causing humans to die or be crippled from shootings. That causes citizens to be scared of being shot wherever they go. What rules on guns and ammunition are common in most modern democracies in the world? Why are their people more able to go about their daily lives in more safety, without fear of being shot? What's the political culture that accounts for the vast difference? Where's an op ed on that, NYTimes? If the latest appalling outrage didn't lead to that discussion in our media, what ever would?
eddy (england)
@Bruce1253 40,000 gun deaths last year in the USA. The vitriol directed at Muslims seems naive and utterly ridiculous when you consider that since 9/11 about 750,000 have died on US soil with guns; most of which were likely legally purchased...
Bruce1253 (San Diego)
@Bruce1253 I just want to be clear, that my call for banning ammunition is because I don't think a gun ban will ever fly, and at 300+ million guns in the US, trying to enforce such a ban will get a whole bunch of good people killed. An ammunition ban would, over time, make those guns useless without trying to round them up or prohibiting the sale of guns. It would be a problem that gradually solves itself. Yes there would be a black market, but over time ammunition would become rare and the death rate would plummet. As the streets become safer, I think a change of attitude will happen in the country regarding guns and their risks vs benefits.
Ulf (washburn wi)
I stopped using lead bullets several years ago. I had a local gun dealership site in my rifle with existing (Hornady brand) lead bullets and new (Hornady 95% copper/5% zinc) bullets, and they found the ballistics/trajectory to be identical, using a 7mm.08 rifle. There is no need for lead in ammunition, or fishing equipment. Let's stop polluting our environment and ourselves.
RM (Vermont)
We will just have to replace normal, projectile shooting firearms with laser weapons.
Tuvw Xyz (Evanston, Illinois)
This is indeed a problem. But probably all the 66 elements of the periodic table designated as naturally occurring metals are in one way or another bad for animals' and birds' health. Find some either neutral or even healthy material to make bullets.
Tom Stoltz (Detroit, mi)
@Tuvw Xyz We add Iron and Zinc to food and vitamins as essential nutrients. "Cases of poisoning from tin metal, its oxides, and its salts are "almost unknown"[1]" Lead, Mercury, and Cadmium are metals that you REALLY want to avoid. The 66 elemental metals are not equally bad in nature. [1]
RM (Vermont)
And everyone with mercury based amalgam dental fillings should have them removed.
Tom Stoltz (Detroit, mi)
@RM "FDA has reviewed the best available scientific evidence to determine whether the low levels of mercury vapor associated with dental amalgam fillings are a cause for concern. Based on this evidence, FDA considers dental amalgam fillings safe for adults and children ages 6 and above. The weight of credible scientific evidence reviewed by FDA does not establish an association between dental amalgam use and adverse health effects in the general population. Clinical studies in adults and children ages 6 and above have found no link between dental amalgam fillings and health problems."
dove (oregon)
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Good article. People don’t really think about how much lead has been dispersed across lands where people have hunted and target shooting. This lead becomes a source of heavy metal pollution overtime.
Joshua Schwartz (Ramat-Gan, Israel)
"Today we have the technology to make highly effective bullets with other, safer metals like copper, and this technology has answered many hunter objections. These bullets are also lethal and accurate, though admittedly more expensive." Well as long as the bullets are lethal and accurate, then that is fine. Too bad they are more expensive. That will nix their use. Try again when the price goes down.
Alexander W Bungardner (Charlotte, NC)
@Joshua Schwartz If more laws were passed banning the lead, or incentivizing their usage, then the supply of these other types of bullets would increase and the prices fall. It would take some time, but it is imminently achievable
Tim B (Seattle)
The author is right that removing lead from bullets is the right thing to do, for all wild animals and birds, and the deadly effects on predators which eat dead animals with lead poisoning. As a boy and then as a teenager, my friends and I killed many birds, at a time before laws existed to protect many species. Though they were 'common birds', it was not until I was in my 20s and accidentally killed a bird with my children nearby that brought me to the place now, where I no longer hunt. But I very much enjoy 'hunting' in a different and non lethal way, with nature photography. In the past year, I viewed a European film which answered a question I have harbored for many years, why are men so often drawn to hunting. The answer was unequivocal, that in the time of their fathers and their grandfathers, to hunt and successfully kill an animal, was a way to validate one's masculinity. For some of us, the appeal to leave nature as untrammeled as possible is most important. Before the rise of our species, nature has done an elegant job with a balance of predator and prey, as predators go after weak, sick or old animals. With modern hunting, far too often the goal is to kill an animal we view as magnificent, which often means an animal with the best genes, the strongest, the fastest, the most beautiful. Doing so disrupts this natural balance often resulting in weaker offspring. Let us hope we evolve so that hunting is a rare and unneeded thing for most of us.
RjW (Chicago )
Killing for food is one thing. Killing to prove ones masculinity is quite another. Killing the one you love may be a highly dramatic statement but letting what you love live, and engaging in land conservation, is a story with a better ending.
Mr. Grieves (Nod)
@Tim B Not sure if you’ll read this, but what happened during the hunt that led you to make a total 180?
Duane Coyle (Wichita)
Zinke was probably not legally in the wrong to rescind the agency regulation banning lead-core hunting bullets from certain wildlife hunting areas. Bureaucratic agencies often overreach by issuing regulations which exceed the scope of legislative statutes which must authorize the promulgation of administrative regulations. The author of this piece fails to make a case that Zinke’s revocation of the lead-core hunting-ammo ban was illegal. But, I agree that insofar as ammunition actually used to hunt is concerned, whether shotgun shells or rifle cartridges (or large-caliber handgun ammunition used for hunting), it is time to retire lead-core ammunition. That doesn’t mean lead-core ammunition should be banned. I don’t hunt, and only shoot targets. There is no reason to ban lead-core pistol and rifle ammunition for target shooting activities only. But for actual hunting of game animals—yes, hunters should only use no-lead ammunition. The reasons for using no-lead ammunition to hunt should be explained to young people going through hunter safety classes. There are perfectly good and efficacious no-lead hunting rounds. A bit more expensive, yes; but such no-lead ammo will only be used to site in the rifle for hunting season and the hunt. The writer is correct when he says hunters are environmentalists, and preserve large tracts of habitat through taxes we shooters pay on ammunition purchases. The legislatures should act so there is no question of regulatory authority.
[email protected] (Seattle WA)
Indoor firing ranges tend to have much too much lead powder drifting. In haven’t seen testing done for outdoor ranges wrt their soul and dust.
Mr. Grieves (Nod)
@Duane Coyle Regulating the use of lead bullets in the ways you describe is far more intrusive (and more likely inefficient) than a blanket ban.
Aristotle Gluteus Maximus (Louisiana)
This is an old argument. Ask the military about your proposal.
WHM (Rochester)
The recent article on survivors of mass shootings that still have bullet fragments in their bodies reinforces your point, since they are apparently suffering from elevated blood lead levels.
Joe B. (Center City)
Much better solution. Quit killing animals.
JKile (White Haven, PA)
@Joe B. Easily said, but here in PA it is now breeding season for deer and they are appearing dead by the road sides as they move in response to breeding attempts and also to fatten up for winter. It will continue for the next several months. Our deer move to the farmers' fields for food which often takes them across roads and deadly interstates. PA ranks third in deer killed on roadways. Without killing many of them in deer season each year it would quickly get worse. Eventually the automobile would become the number one predator of deer.
BillBo (NYC)
Not a great answer when it concerns overpopulation of species because we’ve removed predators. Just drive down the Pennsylvania turnpike when the deer are on the move and you’ll see a blood red road with hundreds of dead deer for miles and miles. Surely a waste of life to both the deer and human victims.
Joe (California)
@Joe B. Unless you are a vegetarian, you are having animals killed all of the time. At least hunters are up front about it.
W in the Middle (NY State)
Spot on... “...RoHS specifies maximum levels for the following 10 restricted substances. The first six applied to the original RoHS while the last four were added under RoHS 3... • Lead (Pb): < 1000 ppm • Mercury (Hg): < 100 ppm • Cadmium (Cd): < 100 ppm • Hexavalent Chromium: (Cr VI) < 1000 ppm • Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB): < 1000 ppm • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE): < 1000 ppm • Bis(2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP): < 1000 ppm • Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP): < 1000 ppm • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): < 1000 ppm • Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP): < 1000 ppm
Gary Misch (Syria, Virginia)
I have only had incidental experience with copper bullets. The PMC 30-30 loads are excellent. When they were available they were certainly as effective as any lead bullet. In fact, I preferred them.
Nelson (Minnesota)
Let's also get rid of the lead fishing weights.
Aristotle Gluteus Maximus (Louisiana)
@Nelson They have effectively banned lead tire weights. They're hard to find now.
Carol (No. Calif.)
YES. Great comment!!
just another pretext to infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms.
dove (oregon)
no its not. removing lead from ammo is to protect the environment and wildlife. how does that infringe on gun ownership?
drspock (New York)
@SSS The US Supreme Court has recognized an individuals right to bear arms in their more recent reading of the 2nd Amendment. But they also recognized the states right to regulates arms as long as the regulation does not amount to an outright ban. Unfortunately our legislatures either don't know how to read the law, or are simply afraid that the NRA will oppose them and they lack the ability to explain how regulation and gun ownership are not mutually exclusive.
tom (midwest)
@SSS no. It doesn't infringe on the second amendment at all.
Listen Tome (Washington, DC)
I am concerned about Bambi too. I am also concerned and ashamed of all the lead and other toxins has left behind in US wars of aggression. Agent Orange is still killing people and causing birth defects in South East Asia. In West Asia cancer rates are soring from depleted uranium and burn pits. The US military is the number one polluter on earth. The US faces no external threat. How about the US stops all the illegal wars of aggression in South America, Africa, and Asia? It is 2 minutes to midnight on the Dooms Day Clock, too.
BillBo (NYC)
False equivalency. The US isn’t perfect. Should we not do anything to protect wildlife because of your guilt over past injustices?
oldbugeyed (Aromas)
I live in central California, within the range of condors. I have been fortunate enough to be in the center of many condors circling around me at Pinnacles. Not so long ago we thought they would become extinct. But ten we banned the use of lead bullets in this part of CA. Oh yeah, there was much groaning and complaining..... but now its no big deal, just load up with Barnes DRT or some other equivalent. I completely agree, its past time for this change to come to hunters,who usually lead the conservation movement.
Ray Finch (Lawrence, Kansas)
As a result of being mugged, I have a 9mm round in my right leg. The surgeon did not remove because it would have caused more damage (or at least that’s what he told me). Now I worry about lead poisoning. We need more gun and ammunition control.
Iris (NY)
Lead bullets should be banned altogether, and mainly for the sake of human children. There is no safe level of lead exposure. Simply firing guns with lead shot can send lead dust flying around, and it gets everywhere, including the mouths of little ones. Simply coming home after visiting a gun range can expose kids to lead via dust on the adult's clothes. Given what we know about lead and what it does to little brains, we have no business allowing it in ANY consumer product with even the slightest risk of it getting out. Tinkering around the margins for the sake of wildlife is helpful, but it is not nearly enough. Ban all lead products across the board.
Aristotle Gluteus Maximus (Louisiana)
@IrisB But of course we should ban lead acid batteries too. So You'll have to walk, or crank start your car, like the good old days.
David Martin (Vero Beach, Fla.)
Lead batteries might be obsolete fairly soon. With car batteries, the lead is recycled. There's not much of an environmental contamination problem.
Sal (Yonkers)
@Aristotle Gluteus Maximus But of course, lithium automotive batteries last longer, are much, much lighter, and therefore much more fuel efficient. And then of course, electric cars.
Aristotle Gluteus Maximus (Louisiana)
The process to make a lead military bullet and a civilian hunting bullet is essentially the same since the same manufacturers make both. So ask the military if they are willing to ban lead in bullets. And then ban hunting but not lead in bullets. People don't need to hunt. They can buy their meat at the grocery store like civilized people. But we don't need to ban guns because we need them for self defense, police and military operations. The second amendment is still valid and needed. It doesn't say anything about hunting. Surgeons leave lead fragments in humans on a regular basis, so there is no need to ban lead in bullets. Just ban hunting. It's done on a seasonal basis already.
Bill Wilson (Boston)
@Aristotle Gluteus Maximus civilized people would not buy most meat in a store if they understood the animal cruelty and environmental damage mas agriculture causes. Buy only organic, small farm, pastured and outdoor raised meat.