4/28/2013

California seeking to ban lead in ammunition

California is dredging up old studies to justify banning lead bullets.  Just to get people up to speed on this issue, here is an EPA report from 1999.  An Associated Press story noted:
A 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and the North Dakota Department of Public Health concluded with a recommendation that lead is so prevalent in meat harvested through hunting that pregnant women and children should never eat it.  Gun supporters say that those studies have never conclusively linked consumption with illness in humans. . . .
But if you look at the North Dakota study, you will find this:
The lead levels among study participants ranged from none detectable to 9.82 micrograms perdeciliter. . . 
No attempt was made to account for other sources of lead poisoning and obviously there are multiple sources of lead in the environment (the mean level of lead in the blood in the US is 3 micrograms, not zero).  In addition, the highest level of lead in the blood for one of the 738 people sampled in the North Dakota study was less that what the government defines as elevated even for children.
Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes.  An elevated blood lead level in a child is defined as 10 or more micrograms of lead in a deciliter (μg/dL) of blood. . . . Children are more vulnerable to lead than adults.  While all children are at risk from lead, children living in older housing and in poverty are at the greatest risk.  Children who eat paint chips or breathe dust from flaking or peeling lead-based paint are the most likely to develop a problem.  Children may also develop high blood lead levels by drinking water contaminated with lead that may be in the plumbing system or by being exposed to contaminated soil or other lead hazards. . . . .
 From the New York Health Department these are the numbers for adults.
It is hard to look at these numbers from the North Dakota study and view even the highest level of lead found as a danger, and there is no reason to believe that outlier is a result of hunting.  It seems likely that in the US as a whole more than 1 out of every 738 people have lead levels equal to or above the highest person in this sample.  Take Detroit.  In 2012, apparently 2,900 children under age 18 had lead poisoning.  With about 186,500 children under age 18, that implies a poisoning rate of 1.6% (down 70% from what it was just in 2004).  Given that the North Dakota data doesn't have anyone reaching the lead poisoning rates found in Detroit and that only 0.136% even reach 9.82 micrograms, Detroit has much more to be concerned about.  (Note that I am making the assumption here that the Scientific American article on poisoning means those under age 18 when it mentions "kids."  If in fact that refers to younger ages, the poisoning rate would be substantially higher.)

A similar Minnesota study that was done at the same time found: "As a result, the Minnesota DNR conducted the first-of-its-kind lead fragmentation study to simulate how different types of bullets commonly used for deer hunting might fragment."


See more on the general issue here.

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