Lawmakers want to eliminate lead from hunting

House Democrats are launching a bill to phase out the use of lead ammunition in the wild and pay for a lead ammunition buyback program through the DNR.

ST PAUL, Minnesota – Minnesota lawmakers are weighing the idea of ​​phasing out lead ammunition, especially in wildlife areas, to reduce lead poisoning of wildlife and humans who accidentally ingest buckshot fragments or of bullets.

A bill, drafted by Deep Haven Democrat Kelly Morrison, would create a lead bullet buyback program through the DNR and pay out vouchers to help hunters buy less toxic ammunition.

“Lead ammunition is a large and relatively unregulated source of lead knowingly released into the environment in the United States,” Rep. Morris told the House Preventive Health Policy Subcommittee on Wednesday.

“Childhood exposure to even mildly elevated levels of lead produces lasting neurological deficits in intelligence and behavior.”

There is also ample evidence that raptors and other scavenger birds become ill when they accidentally eat lead bullet fragments from big game hunting.

“In particular, the piles of casings create an incredibly rich, high-value meal for these birds,” Victoria Hall of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center told lawmakers via Zoom, as a young bald eagle named Max sat perched behind her shouting at the right time.

Hall said at least 85% of raptors admitted to the Raptor Center clinic had some level of lead poisoning.

“It only takes a piece of lead the size of a grain of rice about half to a centimeter wide to kill a bald eagle when ingested.”

Gretchen Strate, conservation biologist at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, told the committee about trumpeter swans that had been found with lethal levels of lead poisoning in area lakes. She said they most likely got sick from ingesting lead fishing sinkers.

Brian Gosch of the National Rifle Association was among those who testified against Morrison’s bill.

“Banning lead ammunition will compound the supply chain problem for any type of ammunition. Additionally, alternatives to lead ammunition may be less lethal, and therefore less ethical for hunting.”

Lead is especially toxic to children, who are most often exposed to lead dust from peeling and chipping windows in homes built before 1978, when lead was banned in most household paints.

They can also ingest it from toys that have lead parts, from playing in soil with lead paint dust, or from living in an older home that is undergoing a renovation project.

“We see this in our clinic and practice with impacts on the nervous system and the brain, including slow development, slow growth, learning behavior issues, speech and hearing issues,” Dr. Zeke McKinney told the committee.

The Minnesota Department of Health has an interactive map online, which highlights where children have been most exposed to lead poisoning, based on high lead levels in blood tests.

Lead in drinking water is also on the radar of House Democrats this session.

Rep. Sydney Jordan of Minneapolis has a bill that would create a grant program to help cities replace aging lead water pipes. These are the buried pipes that carry water from the city water pipes to the houses.

“No lead exposure is harmless. Lead utility lines are also one of the largest sources of lead in Minnesota’s drinking water,” Rep. Jordan told the committee Wednesday.

She said one of the goals of the bill would be to help cities take advantage of assistance from the federal infrastructure and jobs law that Congress passed at the end of the year. last. She said the EPA is still developing guidelines on how government agencies can allocate those dollars.

“In this bill, cities can use grants to identify and map their existing plumb lines, remove and replace plumb lines, and maximize federal funding for plumb line replacement.”

The Minnesota Department of Health, in conjunction with the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority, administers $43 million in annual federal government grants for water system improvements.

The state has received more than 500 applications from local communities for the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Program, totaling more than $1.2 billion. The MDH maintains a priority list ranking the projects in order of urgency.

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