Banning the use of lead from bullets and fishing weights should be non-controversial, writes Scott Benowitz.

There is a common misconception that hunting and fishing enthusiasts and the environmental lobby are perpetually at odds with each other.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While hunters and commercial and recreational fishers don’t always agree with the environmental lobby on every issue, most of them thoroughly understand that if clean air, clean water, forests, deserts, and swamps are not carefully preserved, then animals will die from habitat loss and poisoning related to pollution.  Unless ecosystems are carefully preserved, there will be almost no animals, birds, or fish remaining for people to hunt or fish. 

Likewise, most environmentalists thoroughly comprehend that in some areas, it is necessary to allow for the hunting of some species during certain times of the year to prevent overpopulation.  Once a herd becomes too populous, the pack becomes unhealthy. 

Hunters, fishers as well as environmental lobbyists are opposed to poaching, unregulated hunting, hunting out of season, hunting beyond legal limits as well as hunting endangered species.  Those practices are reckless and unethical.  The environmental lobby, hunters, and fishers all support reasonable hunting and fishing regulations, and we usually are mutually opposed to any legislation which would endanger the future of sustainable hunting, commercial fishing, and recreational fishing.  

Hunting and fishing laws are regulated by the environmental protection agencies in each state, and those agencies are staffed by professional biologists.  

It should be easy to ban the use of lead in bullets and fishing weights. 

A Concise History Of Modern Regulations Regarding Exposure To Lead In The U.S.

Lead poisoning has been known for longer than most other illnesses.  There are references to lead poisoning in writings that date as far back as the iron age.  There is no organ in the human body that needs any form of lead to function, and the greater amounts of lead that people are exposed to, the more lead will gradually accumulate in different parts of the body.  Lead poisoning can affect the central nervous system, vision, our blood, skin, kidneys as well as our reproductive systems.  Not everyone who is exposed to lead experiences all of the symptoms of lead poisoning.  Among the known symptoms of lead, poisoning are vision impairments, partial loss of hearing, hallucinations, delirium, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, appetite loss, loss of sex drive, depression, slurred speech, a gradual erosion of teeth and gums, kidney failure, anemia, birth defects, irritability, headaches, memory loss, loss of coordination, seizures, loss of muscle control/ tremors, gradual deterioration of muscles, delayed reaction times, loss of skin tone, and in the most extreme cases, lead poisoning can lead to people become comatose.  There are no known cures for lead poisoning.

Throughout the course of the 19th and the twentieth centuries, as biologists’ understanding of the chemistry and the organs of the human body progressed, scientists throughout the world acquired a more advanced understanding of how lead affects all of the organs of the human body.  As early as 1922, the League Of Nations had enacted a worldwide ban on lead in some paints, though the 1922 ban only applied to certain paints.  It was not until the 1970’s that scientists throughout the world fully understood that there are zero safe levels of lead particles in the human body. 

The U.S. Congress banned the use of lead paint in homes in 1971, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission banned the use of lead in all paints in the U.S. in 1978.  

Companies that manufacture gasoline for commercial use began to use tetraethyllead as an additive in the 1920s.  In 1973, the Environmental Protection Agency first began to enact standards that reduced the amount of lead that is used in fuel.  Advances in technologies such as catalytic converters in automobiles became commonplace beginning in 1975, and the use of lead in gasoline was gradually phased out from the mid-1970’s through the mid-1990’s.  The EPA banned the use of any lead in any gasoline products which are intended to be used in automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, and boats in the U.S. beginning effective January 1st, 1996, as part of the terms of the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1963.  As of 2021, the only fuel which still uses lead is aviation fuel. 

Congress banned the use of lead in plumbing products such as solder as part of the 1986 Amendments to The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.

Companies that manufacture canned foods opted to stop using lead as a material for use in soldering cans throughout the U.S. in 1991, and in 1995 The Food And Drug Administration enacted regulations that prohibited any future use of lead in any cans which are intended to contain food products.

These decisions were all very non-controversial.  There was no “lead mining industry lobby” that opposed any of these laws. No one argued against these regulations even though some people may have been concerned that the cost of paint, gasoline, or plumbing products might become slightly higher if lead were banned.  People universally recognized that the use of lead in paints, gasoline, and plumbing products were contributing to the presence of lead in the air as well as in groundwater.  People recognized that any contaminants which are in the air, in the ground, and in the soil will eventually end up in our water supplies, in plants, in animals, and in our food supplies.

Banning the use of lead from bullets and from fishing weights should be as non-controversial and as straightforward. The same way the ban on the use of lead in paint, gasoline, plumbing products, and cans, which contain food products had been back in the 1970s.

What Are “Green Bullets”?

Green bullets” are bullets in which the gun powders that are contained within them are made from non-toxic materials and the projectiles are made from metals other than lead.  I’m not a chemist, I do study green issues and emerging green technologies very closely, and I will concentrate my discussion in this article specifically to the metals that the projectiles are made from and not the various materials which are used in gun powder because I believe that lead projectiles are the component of bullets which cause the most long-term damage to the environment.  

The primary concerns in designing and manufacturing bullets are ensuring that the manufacturers are using materials that will provide maximum accuracy for the people who will be shooting the bullets, and that they can do so in a manner which will be cost effective for the consumers as well as for the manufacturers.  The projectiles in green bullets are usually made from copper, steel or alloys in which copper or steel have been mixed with metals such as bismuth, tin or tungsten rather than lead.  Bullet shells and casings have been made from copper and steel for more than 100 years, but lead is still the most common metal which is used in the projectiles.  Copper and steel are completely harmless to the environment.  By contrast, the continued use of lead in bullets sends many tons of lead back into the ground every year.  Once lead is in the ground, it is only a matter of time before small fragments of it break apart, and any lead which is in the ground will eventually leach into groundwater.  One individual bullet does not weigh very much, but the cumulative tons of lead which are used in the millions of rounds that people shoot throughout the course of each year do add up.  The manners in which bullets and shot which are made from lead contribute to pollution in soil and groundwater has been studied very closely by numerous agencies in different countries.

Bullets have been made from a number of different materials since guns were first invented, though lead has been one of the most commonly used metals because it is easy to mold and it is inexpensive.  For people such as myself who enjoy reading articles about archaeology dig sites, when we read about archaeologists finding musket balls which had been fired in historic battles during the 18th and the 19th century or bullets from historic battles from various conflicts from throughout the course of the 20th century at archaeology dig sites, it is easy to forget that chunks of lead do gradually break down over the course of time.  The spent bullets which are discovered at archaeology dig sites are probably not the same exact shape that those artifacts were when they were first fired from soldiers’ guns in combat decades ago.  The artifacts that archaeologists are finding in the present day are all partially decomposed; small fragments the lead from bullets that we see in display cases in history museums had been gradually leaching into the ground prior to those artifacts having been discovered by archaeologists. 

The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 does effectively limit or prohibit the use of toxic chemicals in a number of different industries in the U.S., however the terms of the Toxic Substances Control Act do not address the material which bullets and shot are made from.  The Toxic Substances Control Act either needs to be amended so that it will address the materials that bullets and are made from, or an entirely new law needs to be written which could effectively address and regulate this issue.

Rifles and handguns fire bullets which contain a single projectile, and shotguns can fire shells which contain either slugs, which are a single projectile, or shells which are filled with many small projectiles which are referred to as “pellets” or “shot.”  

Prior to 1957, all shot was made from lead.  Beginning in the 1950’s, some of the companies which manufacture ammunition began to use metals such as tungsten, bismuth and steel instead of lead as the materials that they were making shot from.  In recent years, some companies which manufacture ammunition have been manufacturing shot from lead which is coated with other materials such as alloys of steel, tungsten, nickel or bismuth, and there are also some kinds of shot in which the lead core is coated in nylon.  Shot in which the core material is lead, which is covered with an outer coating of other materials is referred to as nontoxic shot.  The purpose of nontoxic shot is that the outer coatings prevent the inner lead core from deteriorating over time, so that lead does not leach into the ground or water.  

Many of the kinds of nontoxic shot which are commonly sold in hunting stores in the U.S. are relatively new products, so it has not yet been possible for biologists and ecologists to study the long-term effects of the pellets from many kinds of nontoxic shot.  It is not yet known if the outer coatings which are used in nontoxic shot really prevent lead from leaching into the ground, or if those coatings merely slow the process.

Many kinds of nontoxic shot which are approved for use in the U.S. still contain lead, and to me seems like it is greenwashing the issue.  While steel, tungsten and bismuth are harmless to the environment, some kinds of nontoxic shot contain nylon and nickel.  Nylon is a synthetic polymer, nylon will damage the environment too.  Nickel is mostly harmless, though in large quantities nickel can become potentially dangerous too.  I encourage Federal legislators to consider enacting legislation which would effectively remove all lead from slugs and pellets which are used in shotguns.  I will discuss existing laws which regulate the use of lead in buckshot in a subsequent section of this article.

Modern computers and modern industrial equipment are enabling scientists throughout the world to create new metal alloys which had not existed until recently.  I’m not a metallurgist nor am I an expert in modern weapons or ballistics, but I’m confident that it is quite possible for agents who represent various groups which use guns (i.e. law enforcement agencies, game hunters, target shooters, etc.) to work with the companies which design and manufacture bullets so that bullets which are as accurate and as bullets which contain lead can be manufactured from other metals and the bullets will still be cost effective to the consumers. 

The population of the U.S. is expected to continue to rise, more guns will exist in the future and more bullets will exist.  Although it is illegal to do so, the technologies exist for people to make homemade guns using 3D printers, so people will eventually be able to make homemade bullets from 3D printers, if they aren’t already doing so- legally or otherwise.  The longer we wait to ban the use of lead, the more we’re going to see lead leaching into groundwater.   

I do want to point out that green bullets are not without potential risks either.  Heat dissipates slightly faster from lead than it does from copper and steel, so when a bullet which is made from copper or steel lands on the ground, in a tree or it makes contact with a rock, the possibility that the heat from the bullet can spark a fire is slightly greater from green bullets than it is from people shooting bullets in which the projectiles are made from lead.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a metallurgist, in my opinion, the risk that green bullets pose in terms of sparking fires is minimal, and green bullets are a much safer, cleaner and environmentally friendly alternative to bullets which contain lead projectiles.

Some antique guns which were manufactured in the 19th century and earlier may not be able to fire green bullets.  Antique weapons were designed and manufactured with much older technologies, and they were designed very specifically to fire projectiles which were made from lead.  The process of firing green bullets produces higher temperatures, and this can cause mechanical problems in the firing mechanisms in some antique firearms.  People hardly ever fire live rounds in antique guns, but occasionally people do fire live rounds from antique guns in demonstrations which are intended to illustrate historic technologies.  I strongly suspect that the companies which manufacture bullets will likely be able to create bullets that can work in antique guns which can be made without using lead in the projectiles.

Green bullets and Recreational Target Shooting

 Target shooting, or sports shooting refers to people who shoot at various kinds of targets for sport.  Although many people who enjoy target shooting also do hunt game animals, target shooting is an entirely separate sport.  There are quite a few different kinds of target shooting sports, many of which have been included in all of the Summer Olympics since 1896, with the exceptions of the 1904 and the 1928 Summer Olympic Games.  Fifteen different target shooting sports were scheduled to be included in the 2020 Summer Olympics which were intended to be held in Tokyo, and 13 shooting events were intended to be included in the 2020 Paralympics.  As of the time that I’m writing this article, the shooting sports which had been intended to be held in the 2020 Summer Olympics and the 2020 Paralympics are currently being rescheduled to be held in the summer of 2021 in Asaka, Japan.  Fifteen shooting sports are currently scheduled to be included in the 2024 Summer Olympics which will be held in Paris.  Shooting competitions will be included in the 2024 Paralympics, shooting competitions are scheduled to be included in the 2028 Summer Olympics as well as the 2028 Paralympics which will be held in Los Angeles.

There are numerous target shooting competitions which are held throughout the U.S. as well as in many other countries throughout the world every year.  Organizations such as the International Shooting Sport Federation which organize target shooting competitions throughout the world always emphasize safety issues and responsible gun ownership.  People who are interested in the sport need to be able to practice their skills.  Practicing shooting at targets from a short distance can be done at both indoor as well as outdoor ranges, obviously practicing at targets which are located a long distance from the shooters needs to be done at outdoor ranges.  

State and Federal legislators need to think about what happens to the spent bullets after people shoot them at firing ranges.  At outdoor ranges, the spent bullets either remain in the ground where they land, and at ranges which do make a serious effort to clean up spent rounds, the spent bullets will eventually end up in landfills.

Green Bullets and Game Hunters

 There are a number of ways that bullets end up contributing to lead pollution.  Hunters rarely hit the birds or animals that they are intending to kill with the first shots that they fire.  Every hunter will state that they sometimes miss and it often takes at least a few shots before they hit the birds or animals that they are shooting at.  The bullets that are fired from the shots that they miss will end up either landing in the ground, in bodies of water or becoming embedded into trees.  If the bullets land on the ground, very small fragments the lead from those bullets will eventually flake off, and when it rains, small fragments from the lead from those bullets will eventually become absorbed into groundwater.  If the bullets that are fired from the shots that hunters miss end up landing in streams, creeks, rivers, ponds or lakes, then the spend bullets will sink to the bottom, and throughout the course of several years, some of the lead from those bullets will gradually dissolve in the bodies of water.  If the bullets that are fired from the shots that hunters miss ends up becoming embedded into trees, then the bullets will remain in those trees until the trees die.  When the trees die, the wood from the tree gradually decomposes, and then any metal objects which had been embedded within those trees will slowly decompose too.  If the land that spent bullets had landed in is subject to wildfires or forest fires, then the heat from the fires will cause the bullets to melt, and that will facilitate the process of the lead working its way into groundwater.

Sometimes the shots from the rifles or shotguns that hunters hunt with will hit the animals that they are intending to hit, but the shots are not fatal or “kill” shots.  This is not uncommon at all, and in some instances, the animals which have been shot will sustain injuries, and they manage to run away.  Animals which survive being grazed by bullets do sometimes recover from having been shot, but the lead from those bullets will circulate throughout the animal’s bodies and will accumulate in the organs, the muscle tissue and the skin of those animals.  If the hunters were using bullets which are made from lead when they wound an animal and the animal or animals that they’ve wounded survive and recover, then the lead from those bullets will remain inside of the animal until the animals die in subsequent years from natural causes, or until the animal is hunted by another hunter.  If an animal which had been wounded by a hunter in one year dies from natural causes in subsequent years, then the carcass will be subject to the natural process of decomposition.  If an animal which had been wounded by a hunter in one year, then recovers from the injury and is then hunted by another hunter in a subsequent year, then the hunter who succeeded in killing the animal has inherited the lead which came from the bullets from the previous hunter. 

When a hunter does succeed in killing a game animal, they usually slice out the section of the animal where the bullet or the bullets that they’d fired had become lodged before they proceed to prepare the meat for consumption and the hide for taxidermy or for use in making gloves, hats, wallets, belts, etc.  Hunters usually place the section or sections of the animal where the bullets that they’d fired into their household garbage.  In the U.S., household garbage is usually sent to legal public dump sites or to landfills.  Over time, metal contaminants which are dumped into public dump sites or to landfills will erode and particles will seep into groundwater.

We also need to bear in mind that in each state, people are only permitted to hunt the species of birds and animals which are legal to hunt during certain months of each year.  During the months that hunting is not permitted, most hunters like to go to shooting ranges and practice target shooting so they can keep their aim accurate.  As I’d mentioned earlier, legislators need to think about what happens to the lead from spent bullets at shooting ranges.

So far, California is the only state in the U.S. in which the state government has required that all bullets which are used by game hunters be made of materials other than lead.  The state legislators in California banned the use of lead bullets in game hunting in 2013. 

The Canadian government banned the use of lead shot in shotguns in the 1990’s.  The U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service has banned the use of pellets which contains lead in the U.S. for use in the shot which hunters use when they hunt birds (birdshot), but it is still entirely permissible for hunters to use shot which contains lead when they hunt small game animals (snake shot) as well as the shot which is used in hunting large animals (buckshot). 

Green Bullets And The Use Of Personal Firearms

Gun control is one of the most contentious in U.S. politics, issues relating to firearms have been in newspaper headlines throughout the U.S. for many decades.  Briefly: The Second Amendment To The Constitution Of The United States Of America was written in 1789, and it became effective in mid-December of 1791.  The Second Amendment does guarantee people the right to own firearms, though there is a lot of room for interpretation of how to interpret the wording within a modern context.  The epidemic of mass shootings throughout the U.S. indicates that gun regulations in many states are far too lenient.  The Federal and state governments do need to enact limitations as to what kinds of firearms are permissible, and who can own them.  People who have been convicted of serious crimes, people under the age of 18 are banned from owning guns, and people who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses should not be permitted to own firearms until a psychiatrist states that they feel that someone does not pose a threat.  I wrote 2 articles which appeared in the June 19th, 2016 and the October 23rd, 2016 issues of The Pavlovic Today in which I discussed some of the various issues relating to gun control laws in the U.S.

This article is not intended to be about the issues relating to modern gun control laws, this article is intended to address the specific issue of the continued use of lead in bullets.  I’m mentioning the Second Amendment here because I want to reiterate that for people who live in some areas of the U.S., guns can be a necessity.

In some areas of the U.S., humans are not the top of the food chain.  Various species of bears, wolves, coyotes, coywolves and mountain lions live in most mountainous regions, alligators live in the swamps of the southeastern states, various species of venomous snakes are native to every state except for Alaska and Hawaii, there is a species of venomous lizard which inhabits the southwestern states, there is a species of crocodile which is native to south Florida, and there are at least three invasive species of pythons which are spreading throughout south and central Florida.  Although incidents of fatalities which result from encounters with wildlife are rare in the U.S., at least a small handful of such incidents do occur in the U.S. every year, and in some parts of the U.S., people absolutely do need to own guns to enable them protect themselves from wildlife.  

In an ideal utopian world, people there would never be any instances in which someone would need to shoot another person.  We don’t live in an ideal utopian world, and such worlds will only exist in science fiction.  The current population of the U.S. is approximately 330 million people, and most credible statisticians who study population growth expect that the population of the U.S. will continue to rise throughout the course of the 21st, the 22nd and the 23rd centuries.  There will always continue to be incidents of street crime, home invasion, armed robberies and rapes.  And unfortunately, it is inevitable that there will be situations in which law-abiding citizens are forced to defend themselves in life and death struggles.  Hopefully, these incidents will become as rare in the U.S. as they are in some other countries throughout the world, but I don’t think that it is realistic to expect that such incidents will ever be entirely eliminated.

When discussing incidents in which people are forced to use guns in self-defense, obviously the primary issues that criminologists, sociologists and journalists need to analyze involve how to prevent such situations from occurring to begin with, but unfortunately in an article in which we’re discussing bullets, we do also have to look at what happens to all bullets, including bullets which are fired in situations in which people shoot people.  

Green Bullets, Law Enforcement And Prison Guards In The U.S.

In an ideal world, law enforcement agents would never have to use lethal force, and police seem to be using lethal force far too frequently, but I cannot realistically envision an era in the future when incidents will never be necessary.  Such incidents are tragic, and each incident is different.  Of course, when discussing the use of lethal force by law enforcement, the primary issues which need to be analyzed are whether the policemen or policewomen who chose to use lethal force acted appropriately, and criminologists, sociologists and journalists need to continue to study what causes violent criminals to behave the ways that they do.  Unfortunately, such situations will persist in future years, and we do also now need to begin to think about what happens to the bullets that are used when policemen and policewomen fire their guns.  

In incidents in which policemen and policewomen fire their guns at suspects who are fleeing from crime scenes, and some of the rounds that they fire miss the people whom they are shooting at, the spent rounds are usually recovered later when police are re-examining the crime scenes.  And after the investigations are concluded, the spent bullets that police fired at crime scenes will either be kept in storage in evidence rooms for future reference, or they will be disposed of.   As I’ve mentioned earlier in this article, when spent bullets are disposed of, they will eventually end up in either legal dump sites or in landfills, and the lead from those bullets will eventually gradually leach into the ground and into groundwater.

In incidents in which police shoot at suspects or criminals and they kill the people whom they are shooting at, then the bodies of the criminals or the suspected criminals whom they have shot will be sent to pathologists who will perform autopsies.  It is standard procedure for doctors to remove bullets during autopsies.  If the bullets are no longer needed as evidence as part of legal investigations, then they are incinerated as medical waste.  The particulate will be dispersed into the air, and then it falls back down during rainfall.  

In incidents in which policemen and policewomen shoot at a suspected criminal, and they wound the person or people whom they are shooting at, then the person or persons whom the police have shot will be rushed to a hospital.  Doctors remove bullets when it is possible to do so, but there are some situations in which it is safer for doctors to leave a bullet inside of a patient than it is to remove it.  Bullets which are removed from patients during surgery will be incinerated as medical waste, and the particulate from lead which is incinerated as medical waste will end up affecting the air and the water supply everybody relies upon. 

The incoming Biden administration has stated on a number of occasions that they intend to abolish capital punishment in the U.S.  Capital punishment has been another very contentious issue in the U.S. for many decades, and a number of politicians have stated that they intend to abolish capital punishment in the U.S. in previous years. If the Biden administration does abolish capital punishment, there is also the possibility that a future President may opt to reinstate it.  Most executions in prisons in the U.S. are carried out via lethal injection or gas chambers, though in some states, firing squads are still available as an alternate method of execution.

I’m well aware that the primary issues which need to be looked at when we discuss capital punishment are whether it makes sense to continue to allow for capital punishment in the 21st century at all, and also if we are going to continue to allow capital punishment, we have to ensure that capital punishment is only being used for the most extreme and violent criminals.  However, there is another issue relating to capital punishment which does also need to be analyzed.  If some states are going to continue to allow firing squads as an alternative method of executions, then we need to recognize that the end result will be a body which is filled with spent bullets.  There’s no polite way for me to phrase this- as callous as this sounds, we do need to think about what happens to the bullets that are used in executions after the criminals are executed.  Again, those bullets will be removed by the doctors who perform autopsies shortly before the criminals who have been executed are interred in cemeteries.  Then, the spent bullets will be incinerated as medical waste, and this will send microparticles of lead into the air that everybody breathes.  Lead is heavy, so it does not remain airborne for very long, lead particles in the air will sink back down to the ground either via wind, rain or snow.

Law enforcement agents throughout the U.S. also occasionally have to kill animals, and when game wardens shoot animals, they usually donate the animals that they shoot to foodbanks and to the kitchens in homeless shelters.  Again, the same issues which are relevant to game hunters will affect animals that are shot and killed by fish and game conservation officers.  When a bullet which is made from lead is used, the lead will end up in the meat of the animals that are shot.  When the people who prepare the meat of the animal slice out the part where the bullets were embedded, then the spent bullets simply end up being placed in household garbage cans, in which case they will end up either being incinerated or dumped into landfills.

We also need to bear in mind that law enforcement officers and prison guards need to practice firearms skills throughout the course of each year in order to continue to be able to carry guns as a part of their jobs.  Law enforcement agencies and prison guards use many thousands of boxes of bullets at indoor and outdoor practice ranges in each state each year.  As I pointed out earlier in this article, an individual projectile which is fired from a single bullet does not weigh very much.  The projectiles from a single bullet will usually weigh between approximately 0.3 ounces to slightly more than 1 ounce depending on the caliber of the ammunition.  However, the cumulative tons of lead which are used in the millions of bullets which people shoot every year throughout the U.S. for quite a few different purposes do amount to a dangerous amount of lead which is being sent into the ground, into groundwater and into the air, and until lead is banned from all bullets, the bullets which are fired in practice ranges will continue to contribute to heavy metal contamination.  

Green Bullets And The U.S. Military

It’s no great secret that the branches of the U.S. military are not always the first organizations in the world to openly embrace green technologies.  However, with specific regard to phasing out the use of lead in bullets, quite a few high-ranking officers within the U.S. military do deserve a lot of credit. 

In October of 1995, officers from the U.S. Army, the Coast Guard and the National Guard met with people who work at the Department Of Energy, they had all recognized that the time had come for the U.S. military to phase out the older kinds of the ammunition that the military had been using, and they agreed to begin using bullets which contain either less lead or no lead at all, as well as bullets which use gun powder which contains fewer chemicals which contribute to air pollution.  Following the October 1995 conference, all of the branches of the U.S. military began to transition to the use of green bullets in training as well as in combat operations, and since 1996, the U.S. military has been at the forefront of making use of green technologies in the ammunition that they use.

I see no potential reasons why it should not be equally straightforward to enact regulations which require that all recreational target shooters, game hunters, prison guards and law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. transition to using green bullets.  

Commercial And Recreational Fishing

With regard to fishing, the dangers which are posed by lead weights should be obvious.  Anyone who has ever been fishing even once will notice that weights and hooks are among the items which are most frequently lost while fishing.  It is inevitable that a line or a net that a fisherman is using will eventually break, and when this occurs, the hook and the weights that the fishermen were using will sink to the bottom of the stream, river, pond, lake, reservoir, bay or the harbor that the person had been fishing in.  

As is the case with bullets, the companies which manufacture fishing weights look for materials which are easy to mold and will be cost effective to the people who purchase them.  Until relatively recently, most fishing weights were made from lead or lead alloys.  Over time, the lead from fishing weights which get lost in the waters that people are fishing in will gradually dissolve into the bodies of water where they have landed.  In recent years, numerous environmental organizations throughout the world have been publicizing the need to clean up fishing nets throughout in the oceans throughout the world.  There is also a need to clean up fishing weights which have landed at the bottoms of various bodies of water throughout the world.  Fishing weights can be made from various alloys of brass, steel, tungsten or bismuth, all of which are harmless to the environment.  If weights were made from non-toxic materials, then the damage that would result from losing them would be negligible.  

In the U.S., the fishing industry has begun to successfully address this issue.  In both the U.S. as well as in Canada, the National Parks Service and the National Forest service have banned the use of fishing weights which contain lead for people who fish in the areas of national parks and national forests where fishing is permitted.  In some states, fishing weights which are made from lead have been banned for several years.  The Federal government has to ban the use of lead in all fishing weights, or else we’ll see more lead ending up in our water supply.

What Can We Do About This Issue?

In some countries throughout the world, hunters and target shooters have transitioned to the use of “green bullets” in recent years.  This is not a gun control issue, this would not affect any of the currently existing laws regarding gun ownership in any states or cities anywhere in the U.S. 

I view this issue as being comparable to outlawing the use of lead in paints, in gasoline, in plumbing supplies and in cans which contain food items.  

There are quite a few issues relating to contaminants, heavy metals, groundwater and pollution which will be extremely complicated to solve.  This is not one of them. 

As I was researching this article, I found slightly different numbers from different sources, but from what I’ve been able to ascertain by perusing the web, approximately 10 billion rounds of ammunition are manufactured in the U.S. each year, which uses approximately 50,000 tons of lead.  Annually, fishing weights which cumulatively add up to approximately 4,000 tons of lead are purchased throughout the U.S., though it is impossible to accurately estimate how many of the weights that fishermen use end up each year end up being lost in the bottoms of ponds, streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, bays and harbors throughout the country. 

Proposing, enacting and enforcing legislation which would require that bullets and fishing weights be made from metals other than lead would be impressively simple.  This is an issue which would potentially benefit everybody.  No one anywhere has anything to gain by continuing to use lead in bullets or in fishing weights.  The entire world needs clean water. There is no lead industry or lead mining lobby which wants to prevent other metals from being used in bullets and in fishing weights. 

A lot of new politicians are entering into office throughout the U.S. now.  If you feel that this is an issue which is important to you, begin sending emails to your politicians about this topic. 

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...

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