For several years now, the debate over lead in the environment has raged on. The recent lead bans in California in 2007 have left thousands of hunters struggling to find new bullet materials from a market that is just beginning to develop non lead alternative bullets. The bans, a first for lead bullets, resulted from concern over ingestion of lead bullets by the endangered California Condor.
Recent efforts in North Dakota and Minnesota suggest some lead fragmentation from bullets in venison. This was noted when Dr. Bill Cornatzer, a dermatologist, used x-ray technology on 95 packages of deer meat to determine the lead content, finding lead fragments in 53 packages. Dr. Cornatzer is a member of the Peregrine Fund, a conservation based organization that has lead efforts to ban lead used by hunters. By itself, this sounds alarming but the real question is this. IF lead poisoning from hunters eating game meat is such an issue, why have we not heard about hunters getting lead poisoning?
At the urging of North Dakota Dept. of Health, the Center For Disease Control tested several hundred residents who had reported eating more than one type of game meat and found their lead levels were actually LOWER than the national average! Top that with a report from the CDC that they have never found a case of human lead poisoning traced back to eating wild game. According to a National Shooting Sports Foundation report on the subject, the Iowa Department of Public Health has said, “IDPH maintains that if lead in venison were a serious health risk, it would likely have surfaced within extensive blood lead testing since 1992 with 500,000 youth under 6 and 25,000 adults having been screened.” It has not. Which problem are we trying to solve?
As hunters, we need to be vigilant and follow this issue. If our lead bullets are having a much more wide spread impact on wildlife…We will want to know. IF that is not the case then I do not think we are willing to give up our lead bullets at the whim of misinformation.
Some believe this is just another attempt by the anti hunting crowd to stop hunting as we know it. Rest assured, current non-lead bullet options are not cheap and fairly rare. A ban on lead today would likely have huge negative impacts on the hunting market in the United States, a multi-billion dollar industry, as well as conservation as a whole.
Let’s monitor this more and keep an open mind. Let’s also hope bullet manufacturers continue to follow Hornady’s lead in developing inexpensive lead alternatives for the future. The writing is on the wall that lead will likely become more scarce in the future but for which reasons is unclear at this time. There are studies available that suggest wildlife have become ill from ingesting lead ammunition. This was made clear during the 1980s ban on waterfowl ammunition containing lead shot. As for lead bullets… I still do not see the proof!
Even though the risk of lead poisoning from eating game meat seems to be roughly zip, zero, zilch…hunters can reduce these risks further by following some common sense practices:
Cut away all shot-damaged meat.
• Cut away a generous portion of meat around the wound channel.
• Don’t attempt to wash away lead fragments—it may just spread them more.
• Studies show that ground venison may contain more lead fragments than whole cuts of meat.
• Wash hands, face and clothing after shooting or reloading ammunition.
• Pregnant women and children under six have been cautioned not to ingest any lead at all for years. Avoid cooking venison in acidic sauces (wine, vinegar, lemon).
Get Em’ Out There