Get the lead out!

“Get the Lead Out" no longer means just "Get a Move On." It is also an important directive to maintain and preserve good health, for both human and animal, not to mention the environment in general. That’s why you won’t find lead in canned goods, something that would have been news to Sir John Franklin, a mid-19th-century British explorer whose ship was lost in the Arctic and whose crew died of poisoning brought on by eating tinned food preserved by a lead seal.

Over time and thanks to science, we know better. You won’t find lead in food now, not even in paint, and until recently we were making progress in keeping lead out of bullets.Until recently? What happened? On January 19 – the Obama administration’s last full day in office-Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe banned the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on all FWS wildlife refuges and on land that’s regulated by the agency. The policy was meant to help prevent plants and animals from being poisoned by lead left in themselves in the form of projectiles, or on the ground or in the water. Last Thursday, that order was overturned by the Trump’s administration Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. It was his first day in office. Why would he do that?
 
We’re talking about lead here – something that can’t be good for you, me, our fellow creatures, or the globe we inhabit. Here’s part of what Wikipedia has to say about it:
 
“In the late 19th century, lead was recognized as poisonous, and since then it has been phased out for many applications. Lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissues and bones, damaging the nervous system and causing brain disorders and, in mammals, blood disorders.”
 
Could this be news to Secretary Zinke? I mean why he would ignore the well-known and scientifically-established fact that lead is dangerous? The Secretary made the following comment: 
 
“After reviewing the order and the process by which it was promulgated [by the previous director]  I have determined that the order is not mandated by any existing statutory or regulatory requirement and was issued without significant communication, consultation or coordination with affected stakeholders”
 
Could it be that Zinke thinks there’s some kind of ongoing debate about the negative effects of lead? And what’s meant by ‘affected stakeholders’? Not the animals who might be shot by lead bullets or poisoned by ingesting lead sinkers.Not the vast majority of the general public who neither hunt nor fish but who nonetheless have a legitimate citizen's interest in how wildlife is treated. No, the small but vocal minority that the Secretary means is what he refers to as the ‘hunting community’ (not to be confused with the larger human community) whose influence in political affairs far outweighs their numbers.
 
It won’t surprise anyone to learn that the NRA applauded Zinke’s action. Referring to Obama’s original decision, Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, stated: “this was a reckless, unilateral overreach that would have devastated the sportsmen’s community.” Cox continued. “The Obama administration failed to consult with state fish and wildlife agencies or national angling and hunting organizations in issuing this order. This was not a decision based on sound scientific evidence — it was a last second attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage.”
 
The Sierra Club countered by saying said there was no reason” not to remove lead from ammunition and tackle. Non-lead options are available, effective, cost-competitive, and most importantly safer.”
 
Well, of course, there is sound scientific evidence that lead is harmful, and protecting animals and the environment from the debilitating and poisonous effects of such a substance is hardly an attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage.
 
Yes, lead-free ammunition will cost more – but what doesn’t these days? What do you get for the higher price? You help support a level of protection for the natural world and for all who live in it. That includes the lives of millions of birds and the health of families that rely on game to feed their families. Above all, it is an act of good citizenship, a tangible realization that what we do or fail to do has an effect, either positive or negative, on the common domain of nature of which we are a small but crucial part.
 
“Get the Lead Out” as in ‘Get a Move On’? Absolutely.  We have no time to waste. “Get the Lead Out" as in "Remove Lead from the Environment and Those Who are Part of It?"
 
You bet –  and keep it out!
Don Loprieno is a published author and has maintained a life-long interest in education and history. He lives in Bristol, Maine where he is active in community affairs. Don is a frequent contributor to a radio program called Into the Wilderness broadcast Tuesday evenings from 8-8:30 on WMPG FM 90.9.
Last modified onSaturday, 18 March 2017 12:16