Lead Free

Two stories today which affect the continuing narrative of lead in bullets being a real problem.  Lake City brags of producting 600,000 rounds of green ammunition for the military.  600,000 is a fraction of their daily production.  It’s made from a bismuth alloy.  The only problem with bismuth is that it’s only about twice as abundant as gold, and is only mined as an ancillary to other ores.  In other words, you can’t scale bismuth production to the levels needed to replace lead at any reasonable cost.  With its scarcity, prices would quickly go through the roof.  The devil is in the details, and if we’re attacked along this route, it’ll be tough to speak to the public about the problems of using other metals.  You can bet our opponents will be saying there are substitutes for lead — much like a helicopter can be a substitute for an automobile.

The other is a new study out of Jackson that suggest grizzly bears are being posioned by lead.

JACKSON – Preliminary results of a study by a University of Montana graduate student suggest that lead bullets may be poisoning grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

Tom Rogers sampled blood from 13 grizzlies during hunting season and found nearly half had elevated levels of lead, possibly because the bears had eaten lead bullet fragments in big-game carcasses left behind by hunters.

Here’s a question.  How is the Yellowstone Ecosystem being poisoned by hunters when hunting isn’t allowed within the Yellowstone Ecosystem, and guns aren’t allowed either?

UPDATE: Some folks have corrected that the Ecosystem is a vast area that ecompasses more than just the National Park.  Either way, here’s an idea — aren’t bears busy gaining a lot of fat for hibernation during hunting season?   Wouldn’t that tend to drive the levels of a lot of ecological contaminants higher, including lead?

13 Responses to “Lead Free”

  1. Bitter says:

    I would assume that the Yellowstone ecosystem probably includes areas outside of the park.

  2. I want to try to work Roberta X’s “Mine Your Own Bismuth” joke in here, but I just can’t figure out how….

  3. Tom says:

    Bitter is right, the Yellowstone Ecosystem is a vast area centered around the Park in northestern Wyoming. A lot of it is National Park (Yellowstone and Grand Teton) where hunting (and shooting) is prohibited, but it also includes many acres of National Forest and private land where there is a lot of hunting and shooting. The study is probably bunk, but not on that issue.

  4. oldblinddog says:

    Isn’t most of the western U.S. where lead is mined? Because it is abundant there?

    Oh, wait! Common sense is not required.

  5. vinnie says:

    “big-game carcasses left behind by hunters.”

    UUmmm…. No. If you work really really hard i might admit that this rises to the frequency of extremely rare. Oh and it is illegal..

  6. Weer'd Beard says:

    And exactly how much lead is actually introduced by hunting and shooting?

    If there’s lead in the bears in yellowstone wouldn’t the lead wheel weights being thrown on potholes be more of an issue than a 130 grain bullet that’s coated in copper?

  7. DirtCrashr says:

    They use words like “suggest” as confirmation of some sort, but in reality they are using it the same way that similar words are used in California Ballot propositions – to confuse and mislead the voters, and to open loopholes for other purpose/uses. It’s intentionally deceptive and the careless and already slanted Media swallow it without question.

  8. Tom says:

    YOGI! Stop eating children’s toys from china, don’t you know it’s bad for you?

    What levels of lead are in the water? Are they constant? The ecosystem itself? Soil. Were other chemical contaminates also measured?

    Where’s the data on the bears tested? Ages? The guy a HSUS, PETA, or ALF guy?

  9. Tom says:

    Some points about lead bullets — as far as big-game carcasses left behind by hunters, most bullet fragments probably lodge in the muscle and/or bone of the animal and are taken out with it. Some fragments lodge in the viscera and are left behind when the animal is cleaned.

    I wouldn’t think that many animals are eating lead bullets which miss their target.

    But on the other hand, what percentage of solid lead objects ingested are absorbed by the body? I’d guess that if you swallowed a 130 grain bullet and then weighed it when it came out, it’s weigh somewhere around 129.9 grains. Smaller fragments probably have slightly higher percentages absorbed.

    “Lead poisoning” is a problem in situations where small grains of lead are chewed and swallowed as in lead paint chips and children or in times past when people ate with lead utensils, plates and cooking vessels for many years.

  10. Sebastian says:

    Actually, I don’t know how much elemental lead is really a hazard to the body. Lead paint chips contain oxides of lead, which are soluble. Lead is remarkably corrosion resistant, even in the presence of strong acids. Surgeons will often leave lead bullets lodged in people if removing them would be hazardous, and the patient never seems too worse for wear.

  11. Sebastian says:

    This is interesting:

    Background: Ingestion of elemental lead foreign bodies is felt to have a low risk of clinically significant lead absorption unless gastrointestinal pathology and/or prolonged transit time are present. We present a case of ingestion of a large quantity of small diameter lead shot accompanied by rapid elevation of blood lead levels. Case Report: A 51/2-year-old previously healthy girl was found eating the pellets from an ankle weight.

    It would seem you’d have to eat a significant quantity of elemental lead to have lead levels rise to hazardous levels. I’d note that the child’s blood lead level peaked at 79 μg/dL. OSHA regulations limit exposure to 60 μg/dL for employees in environments where they can be exposed to lead. So even eating a lot of lead shot isn’t necessarily going to blow your blood lead levels into the stratosphere, nor give you lead poisoning symptoms.

  12. anon says:

    Gee, the high levels of lead in their systems couldn’t possibly be because of the fish in their diets, could it?

  13. DirtCrashr says:

    Didn’t they (and don’t they still) *mine* lead up there? It’s in the damn ground, everywhere around. Google “lead mines in montana” and you get a huge number of hits.