Lead Free Lakes – Good for Loons and People
There is a movement underway to make NH lakes lead-free. The Pleasant Lake Association (PLA), New Hampshire Lakes Association (NHLA), and Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA) and others are putting together plans to encourage lake users to think carefully about what they put into the water, especially items made of lead.
It is known, and proven through necropsies, that half of all loon deaths (238 total from 1989 to 2010) are due to lead poisoning from lead “sinkers” and jigs. The obvious answer to this problem is to substitute other materials for lead in fishing gear. There currently is a bill in the NH legislation (SB 2848) that expands the current law to include smaller lead sinkers and jigs, thereby reducing the number of loon deaths. However, many tackle boxes have legacy lead sinkers. Anglers are encouraged to look through their tackle boxes for old sinkers and jigs and replace them with non-leaded ones. Please share this message with anyone you know who could have old, lead items in their gear.
In addition to loons, lead in the environment is not a healthy situation for people either. Another example is wheel weights, which are clipped onto the rims of just about every automobile in the country for tire balancing. Many of these weights fall off and get washed down road into storm drains and end up in waterways. The group National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative is encouraging the transition from leaded wheel weights to lead-free alternatives.
The symptoms of lead poisoning were apparent in early Roman days. This description from an anonymous Roman author:
“Gout and stone afflict the human race;
Jaundice with her saffron face;
Palsy, with shaking head and tottering knees.
And bloated dropsy, the staunch sot's disease;
Consumption, pale, with keen but hollow eye,
And sharpened feature, showed that death was nigh.
The feeble offspring curse their crazy sires,
And, tainted from his birth, the youth expires.”
It is not a pretty sight, but accurate. The Latin word for lead is plumbum, and in Rome, the water system pipes (plumbing) were made of lead to the detriment of the Empire’s population. Lead was also a component in cosmetics, wine, pewter goblets, paints and more.
In 1921 in the United States, tetraethyl lead was added to gasoline, boosting internal combustion engine performance. The fatal outcome of tetraethyl lead was suspected almost immediately, and confirmed three years later, when 15 production workers fell sick and died at several refineries in New Jersey and Ohio. Finally, in 1973, regulations reduced the amount of lead in fuel.
Today, many people are aware of lead’s toxicity and are careful when renovating older homes with questionable paint and avoid lead in products. Another step you can do is encourage your representatives to vote for Senate Bill 2848, which limits lead in jigs and sinkers and helps to make our lakes and ponds “Lead Free”.
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