Sunday, March 18, 2012

EPA Asked To Ban Lead Bullets, Fishing Weights

Citing risks to birds and to human health, roughly 100 environmental groups formally asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency this week to ban or at least impose limits on lead in the manufacturing of bullets and shotgun pellets for hunting or recreation.

The use of such ammo by hunters puts about 3,000 tons of lead into the environment annually and causes the death of 20 million birds each year from lead poisoning, said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate at one of the groups, the Center for Biological Diversity. Consumption of meat from animals that are shot with lead bullets also contributes unacceptable levels of the metal into people’s diets, Mr. Miller said in a phone interview.

The ban sought by environmental groups would not apply to ammunition used by law enforcement and the military. In addition to bullets and pellets used in hunting and recreational activity like range shooting, the petition seeks to limit the use of the metal in fishing tackle and weights.
These same groups asked EPA to ban lead in bullets and sinkers in 2010.  EPA quickly saw that it was a public relations disaster, and withdrew the proposal, just in time for the Democrats to lose the House of Representatives.  Ammunition is specifically exempted in TOSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act), and so EPA would have to find a "work around" (in other word, ignore the text of the law).  That shouldn't be too hard.  I can't imagine EPA would be wild to pursue this before the 2012 election, but early in a second Obama term?  Sure, go for it.

Some people feel this is more about getting EPA into the business of regulating weapons,  hunting and fishing than it is about saving the birds:
The application to range shooting should be another tip-off. While some ranges are open-air, few if any wild animals would graze on the range to consume the spent rounds, and fewer yet would be around to consume them. They’re not interested in protecting the environment from lead; they want to use the EPA to make it much more difficult and expensive for gun owners to buy ammunition by having the agency seize the authority to regulate a key component of firearms.
As for the the science, I would be interested to see how the groups come up with evidence that lead bullets kill 20 million birds a year.  You know damn well they didn't find and count 20 millions dead birds per year, and test them for lead (which would cost a fortune in lead analyses alone).  So that means statistics and models.  And you know how I feel about models:
Fritz's Second Law of Science: All models are wrong; the only question is by how much and in which direction.

Fritz's Third Law of Science: It is highly probable that a model is biased in the direction its author believes is correct.
Are there birds that die from lead poisoning?  Almost certainly.  Do we even have a clue how many?  Probably not.  There are remedies beyond banning lead ammo all over the country.  Have a particular problem with lead bullets and California Condors?  Make special provision in the few counties in California that have condors, enforce them for a few years, and make sure it's helping.

In the meantime, the environmental groups can help us hunters and fishermen by providing funds to buy a new safe, inert bullet and sinker material.  May I suggest gold?  It's heavy, malleable, and environmentally and biologically inert.

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