Index Home About Blog
Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics
From: (Roger Fleming)
Subject: Re: lead & other toxics.....
Date: Tue, 18 Aug 98 08:10:27 GMT

Steve Gill wrote:

> Glad someone pointed this out too, because I get tired of our local
> gun nuts blasting the landscape at will - all that lead will slowly
> dissolve under the influence of microbiological action & weathering
> (ever seen any lead sheet left out for a few years?).

I've seen lead sheet left out for a few years. I've seen lead sheet roofing
on churches that had been 'left out' for 500 years. It wasn't visibly
corroded. I have also seen photos of Roman plumbing valves still in
functional order. These particular ones had been 'left out' at the bottom of
the Mediterranean for nearly 2000 years. I also once found a piece of lead
gaspipe that had probably been subject to widely varying temperatures, acidic
water, and air, for just a little under a century. In that time it had
developed a distinct white patina, but no visible loss of metal. In short,
lead does not dissolve away in a few years, nor even in a few centuries.

> Animals will
> occasionally eat the lead pellets (eg wild turkeys), or scavengers
> will consume the lead along with the meat of a shot animal.

Birds who retain gravel in the crop for long periods (to aid digestion) are
really the only credible way for lead from shot to enter the ecosystem in
significant amounts. (A scavenger might very occasionally consume tiny
amounts, but then defecate them long before the pellets can (extremely
slowly) dissolve in digestive acids.) Even then, though some of the more
subtle toxic effects of lead may be involved (such as mild carcinogenicity
and suspect teratogenicity) the amounts involved are far too low for acute

> Not to say guns are all bad......some ecofreak should come up with a
> non-lead bullet (hasn't this been done to some extent with
> antimony-based shotgun shot?)

Bismuth shot, I think you're thinking of. There are several reasons why such
methods are less applicable to bullets than shot:
1. Round for round, common hunting bullets contain an order of magnitude less
lead than a typical field charge of shot. Even the heaviest big game rounds
contain half the lead - and such heavy rounds are not commonly used.

2. Even the smallest bullets are getting on the large size for fowl to peck
up, and the most common sizes are definitely too large.

3. The ballistics of rifles make them much less amenable to modifying the
ammunition than with shotguns.

4. Unlike shot, in most bullets the lead is almost entirely encased in a
copper alloy jacket, which practically prevents the release of lead
compounds. This jacket is partly removed if the target is struck (whereupon
it is removed by the hunter) but commonly remains intact if the round is
spent down range.

Index Home About Blog