Ecofriendly fire

Published: Wednesday 15 October 2003

-- (Credit: Illustrations: EMKAY)It may disregard its massive carbon emissions and try to explain away the greenhouse effect. But when it comes to defence equipment, the us is choosing to play it environmentally safe.

The Pentagon is paying Minnesota-based Alliant, the world's largest ammunition manufacturer, us $5 million to develop lead-free combat bullets. These bullets would, of course, be lethal for their targets, but safe for the environment. "(With lead bullets) there is a cost in terms of health, human safety and cleanup.... This is not a fire-and-forget kind of thing," pointed out Bob DiMichele of the us Army Environmental Center. "Eventually, we have to pay somebody to go out there and clean up that lead," he added.

If the project proves to be a success, the us military would be able to purge lead from most of its ammunition over the next decade. There would, however, be difficulty in finding a suitable alternative to lead. "It's just harder to make good bullets without lead. We are trying to replicate the good performance of lead, but what we have is not as good. If lead were not toxic, we would not be having this conversation. It's the best," averred Mark de Young, the vice-president of Alliant.

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