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March 2022 – Bonnie & Clyde – Get the Lead Out!

Bonnie & Clyde – Get the Lead Out!

As many readers of The Standard know, Environmental Standards’ Valley Forge office has been the home to a nesting pair of bald eagles since 2002 – 20 years ago! The nesting site is located immediately behind our office building on the shore of the Pickering Creek Reservoir. Over the years, the nest has moved locations amongst a few White Pine trees all within 100 yards of one another. Nest repair and rebuild activity picks up generally in October and the nest is occupied in the first or second week of March like clockwork. Environmental Standards had a naming contest, and the Valley Forge employees affectionately named the pair of bald eagles “Bonnie & Clyde!” I estimate that Bonnie & Clyde have successfully fledged between 30 to 35 young eagles over their nesting duration here having reared two eaglets during many years. Eagles are now frequently seen all along our local Schuylkill River corridor – some of which are likely Bonnie & Clyde’s offspring!

Bonnie & Clyde were folk-hero bank robbers known for flinging lead during their bank robbing spree. So, how fitting a name for our Bald Eagle pair as there is a connection with lead.

A recent study that was published in the journal Science shows that both bald eagles and golden eagles are exposed to the toxic heavy metal – lead – on a routine basis. The study evaluated eagles in 38 states, testing their bones, blood, feathers, and livers for lead and found that 46 percent of the bald eagles and 47 percent of golden eagles had chronic lead poisoning. The researchers believe the eagles are exposed to lead when they scavenge on the remains of animals shot with lead bullets. Eagles, and most birds of prey, have made dramatic come backs in their numbers since the insecticide DDT was eliminated from the ecosystem. DDT was banned for use in the United States in 1972. So, after 50 years, we overcame the impacts of this insecticide only to now poison eagles with lead.

So, what to do? As many of us employed in the environmental consulting and testing business are avid hunters and fisher people, we can stop using lead bullets and sinkers in our outdoor adventures. There are many alternate materials for bullets including copper, copper-zinc alloys, and tungsten. Fishing sinkers are also available in tungsten, steel, bismuth, tin and brass. Have you ever thought of how much lead enters our waterways from lost fishing lures containing lead or lead sinkers? I recommend you think about it while listening to “Get the Led Out – the Immigrant Song” by none –other than Led Zeppelin!

Ahah-ahhhhh, ah!

Ahah-ahhhhh, ah!

David Blye, CEAC

Senior Principal Chemist