Tennessee unregulated silent killer

Published 4:16 pm Friday, November 26, 2021

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To the Editor:
As of now, the TWRA prohibits the usage of lead shots for hunting waterfowl, but no other type of game. I propose this prohibition be expanded to the hunting of small and large game as well, not just waterfowl. In the past, lead seemed to be in everything from pipes, to paint, to gasoline. Over time, scientists realized that many of the health problems people were experiencing were rooted in lead poisoning. We have removed the risks in almost every other aspect of our lives, so why are we still willingly putting lead in the meat we consume?
Excess lead is not only bad for the environment but can also cause serious health risks if consumed by humans. According to the CDC, exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, kidney, and brain damage. When people eat any game meat such as deer, they are at risk for lead poisoning. When a lead bullet goes into the flesh it does not stay a single solid mass, instead, it hits and shatters into its target leaving small micro fragments in the meat. One study by Ecohealth investigated the prevalence of this health risk. They brought 30 different eviscerated white-tailed deer carcasses to 30 separate meat processors and asked for steaks and burger packages. The packages were sub-sampled and the researchers found that 32% of 234 ground venison packages contained at least one metal fragment and 93% of all fragments were positively identified as lead. There is no possible way to ensure no lead fragments are left in the meat, which automatically puts the consumer at risk.
Humans are not the only ones at risk though. If an animal is shot and is not found, the animal will be left out in the environment. Inevitably, scavengers are going to come around and eat the meat. This puts them at risk of lead poisoning as well. An animal rehabilitation specialist I interviewed at Wynn Wood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center revealed that many of the injured waterfowl they try to help had actually been shot with a lead shot, which is illegal per TWRA regulations. This shows there is a serious lack of education regarding the rules and regulations to begin with. There are many other environmental problems beyond the scope of this one issue that could easily be solved by spreading knowledge on how often our actions affect not only us but the living species around us. The state of Tennessee should expand the prohibition of the usage of lead shot for all game. Furthermore, an increase in funding to the TWRA is necessary to enforce this policy as well as develop safer alternatives to a lead shot.

Halie Hawkins
Milligan College

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