Deregulation = Poisoned Eagles

Much of president Trump’s success, if you want to call it that, has come from deregulation. Consumer and environmental protections are at the forefront of the race to make a buck at any cost. The attacks on environmental protection are broad and untimely dangerous. Clean air and water, especially if Obama’s name is connected, are under fire.

Gone is the the clean power plan created by Obama, which had the two-fold benefit of reducing releases of greenhouse gasses and lowering our exposure to lung damaging fine particulate matter. Gone is the methane rule which which was designed to prevent fugitive emissions of Methane, a greenhouse gas 22 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide.

Gone is the 2015 Clean Water Rule which clarified just what bodies of water should come under federal regulatory rule. Conservatives saw it as overreach, but then who needs clean water, right? Wetlands protections, Mercury emissions, numerous regulations meant to protect the environment from rapacious fossil fuel extraction, and on and on, gone.

One recent deregulatory step has been to lift the ban on lead used for hunting on wildlife refuges. This increases the the likelihood of poisoning of non-target species that can be poisoned from eating carcasses of unrecovered animals or the entrails of field dressed animals like deer and elk. Among those animals at increased risk is none other than our national symbol, the Bald Eagle. They, other raptors, and vultures can receive lethal doses of lead.

My personal experience is not uncommon. Recently while floating on the Illinois Bayou with friends we stopped on a gravel bar to grab a bite to eat. Not 20 yards from where we stopped was a Bald Eagle near the brush line on the gravel bar! Just sitting there. We assumed it would fly away so we didn’t disturb it. After several minutes it hadn’t moved so we walked closer, within just a few feet of it. It made no attempt to flee. This bird was obviously in very bad shape. We contacted the HAWK center (Helping Arkansas Wild Kritters) and were encouraged to bring him in. Lynne Slater met us at the takeout and took over his care.

A toxicology screen showed a blood lead concentration of 3.6 ppm. Concentrations of lead greater than 0.6 ppm are diagnostic for lead toxicosis. X-ray examination of the eagle show no physical damage or the presence of any lead shot, hence he was poisoned indirectly. After around the clock intensive treatment for almost a week, the eagle died. Essentially this eagle died because someone want ed to save 2 to 5 % on the cost of bullets. Non-lead bullets and shot exist but are ever so slightly more expensive.

Multiple studies show that even when a lead slug passes through an animal, it leaves small, even microscopic bits of lead which contaminate the flesh and entrails. One study found lead fragments in 1/3 of all ground venison packages examined. So not only are the scavengers getting lead from the gut piles, the hunters and their friends and family are similarly exposed.

We have recognized the hazard of and removed lead from our gasoline, paint, plumbing and numerous consumer products. It is high time that we get the lead out of our environment by mandating alternatives to lead in weaponry.

Get the Lead (Pb) Out.

Professor Plum – did it in the kitchen – with the lead pipe. This could have been an outcome in the old board game, Clue. In reality and recent times it was the the emergency manager in Flint Michigan, with the lead pipes in the cities antiquated distribution lines.

Back to Flint, Michigan later, but first a brief history and discussion of the toxic nature of lead. Lead is the quintessential example of the class of elements know as heavy metals. Other toxic heavy metals include Mercury and Cadmium. Heavy metals generally share a capacity to cause nerve damage in both peripheral and central nervous systems. The element symbol, Pb, comes from the Latin Plumbum, which is also the root of the English words plumber, and plumb-line.

Lead has been in common use for centuries. Lead glaze in pottery has been dated to circa 4000 BCE in Egypt. It is a dense, relatively non oxidizing (won’t “rust” like iron) malleable material. Among its many uses are jewelry, solder, lead pipes, batteries, and of course the most toxic form-bullets. In various chemical combinations it has been used as durable paint pigment, and an anti-knock agent for gasoline. In ancient Rome a chemical compound of lead was used to sweeten wine. Not surprisingly the compound’s common name is sugar of lead, made by dissolving lead in vinegar to get lead acetate.

Lead came into use about the time of the iron age, but may have preceded iron as it is easier to smelt from its ore, Galena. It’s toxicity has also been known from ancient times. Acute lead poisoning is rare, but chronic poisoning was common. The forerunners of modern chemists were the alchemists. They for reasons know only to them associated some elements with planets. Lead was connected to Saturn. The word saturnine is an adjective meaning slow, gloomy, taciturn, even cynical. These describe nicely the early symptoms of lead poisoning. Further progression of poisoning involves damaged memory, confusion, and tremors. Some of these symptoms can be irreversible.

Chronic lead poisoning is at its most insidious when children are involved. If items with any lead content are in the presence of a toddler, it will likely end up in the child’s mouth. Lead based paint was common, and the toxicity known since early in the 20th century. A painted window sill is the perfect spot for a teething toddler. Regulation of the industry was resisted for decades, the industry blamed the parents for not keeping toys, window sills, etc out of the mouths of children.

The most recent example of lead poisoning in children takes us back to Flint, Michigan. The collapse of the auto industry and other financial troubles lead the state to take over management of the city. An emergency manager with broad authority to manage the city budget caused (or allowed) the city to switch their water supplier from properly treated Lake Huron water to untreated water from the Flint river. This untreated water flowed through the city’s lead pipe distribution system. Proper treatment can prevent leaching, but it wasn’t done. Subsequently as many as 10,000 children have been identified as having toxic levels of lead in their blood. Many could suffer permanent kidney, liver, and brain damage.