Editors Blog

Not-So Common Sense

If there really were such a thing as "common sense," wouldn’t we all have it?

One would think so. However, in light of what has transpired with the lead-in-vension stories cropping up across deer country, it appears that uncommon sense is more prevalent these days.

The paranoia flavor for today revolves around the discoveries of miniscule lead shavings, presumably from bullet shrapnel, in ground venison that was donated to food pantries in North Dakota and Minnesota.

We don’t know if the fragments were from shrapnel in blood-shot meat, or if they came from pieces lodged in meat grinders, but it’s a safe bet that, once again, hunters will likely be required to come to the rescue and change their habits.

What we do know is that some folks, including some higher-ups in North Dakota, have become so freaked out by the findings that they have thrown away all of their venison from last season. The hypochondria hit such high points even though there have been no reported cases of lead poisoning from venison.

In other states, like Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, cooler heads have prevailed. Iowa health officials aren’t raising eyebrows over lead in venison.

In fact, the state has done extensive lead blood-level testing on 500,000 children under age 6, and, in a recent statement said, "if lead in venison were a serious public health risk, it would likely have surfaced within extensive blood testing since 1992…"

This isn’t to say lead isn’t dangerous. It certainly can be, as evidenced in the residential-paint studies found in homes built before 1977. Repeated exposure to lead can cause mental problems, especially in children.

The fact that some hunting bullets contain lead and that tiny fragments of those bullets could, in theory, end up in ground meat is a far cry from other instances of lead exposure (home paint, toys made in China, etc.).

Keith Warnke, whitetail specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said he believes the lead worries are overblown.
"This is my personal opinion," he said, "but this organic, free-roaming, free-ranging meat (venison) is far healthier for you than any beef coming from the store.  I know where my venison is coming from every second that passes from the time I shoot my deer until I eat it. That said, I am going to use bonded bullets and may use copper bullets. It’s all about exercising some common sense."

At least someone on a state level is thinking clearly. In fact, both the Wisconsin and Minnesota agencies took steps toward a common-sense end by issuing advisories. The advisories simply instruct hunters on how to employ basic safety measures when handling gun-shot deer.

If you or someone you know (hint: your wife) is still overly worried about lead in your vension, then I’d strongly suggest investigating the lead content in other commonly used items.

For example, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recently reported that more than 33 percent of the red lipsticks examined by an independent lab contained lead levels exceeding national standards. High lead levels have also been found in popular candy products imported from Mexico.

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