Not only does the US need tougher gun control, but it also needs stronger laws in the regulation of lead in ammunition. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency has not done enough to mitigate issues related to lead poisoning in the wild, so several green groups are taking them to court. The groups are claiming that exposure to the toxic metal from spent ammunition poses a risk to millions of birds and human health.

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Earlier this year, 100 environmental agencies, including The Center for Biological Diversity, unsuccessfully petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency to restrict the use of lead-based ammunition that is used in the majority of sporting and hunting ammunition in the US. The EPA said they did not have the authority to regulate lead ammunition, but the environmental groups disagreed. The matter has now been taken to the US District Court with the environmental groups filing a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that the EPA can indeed make rules to limit lead exposure under the Toxic Substances Control Act, a law designed to limit exposure to harmful chemicals. However, this faces opposition. On the same day the lawsuit was filled, US Senators Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, and John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, filed an amendment to the federal Farm Bill that would ban the EPA from making any sort of act regarding lead based ammunition. In fact, the US House has already passed legislation exempting the EPA from regulating lead-based bullets — so the EPA would seem to be right in stating they don’t have the authority, though perhaps they should.

Lead, as I’m sure you all know, is, in the words of the US Geological Survey, a “potent, potentially deadly toxin that damages many organs in the body,” affecting animals as well as humans. With 95% of the ammo fired in the US containing lead, the environmental groups say that the spent cartridges threaten millions of birds, including bald eagles and endangered California condors who ingest pellets or lead infused carcasses.

However, the National Shooting Sports Foundation say that lead based ammunition has been around for centuries without damaging the ecosystem. Lawrence Keane, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, added that any decisions about hunting should remain under the control of state wildlife agencies and be “based on the sound science of population impacts, not management to prevent harm to individual animals.”

The environmental groups have stressed they are not trying to ban hunting. “We have no anti-hunting agenda. In fact, we think a lot of hunters don’t want their bullets to continue killing long after an animal is shot,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Of course, metal bullets are more expensive – which I guess would make gun owners more conservative about what they shoot. A potential win-win situtation?

Via Reuters

Images: Yarden SachsWisconsin Department of Natural Resources