23 July 1999

U.S. Army To Use 'Green' Tungsten Bullets

by Kate Melville

The United States army is to manufacture and use tungsten-based bullets, replacing the traditional but environmentally unfriendly lead slugs, the International Tungsten Industry Association (ITIA) gleefully has stated.

Around one million 'green' bullets will be produced this year, rising to ten million in 2000, and up to 200 million in the years that follow, the latest ITIA newsletter said. This amounts to more than 5,500 tonnes of tungsten annually.

Lead bullets tend to cause a build-up in the environment, often ending up in sediments, surface water and groundwater.

In a classic catch 22 situation, this accumulated lead can harm wildlife, as well as people if they drink contaminated water. So irrespective of whether they're flying towards you at breakneck speeds, or merely lying around, lead bullets are bad news.

Reassuringly, however, the change will not alter the destructive force of each of the little projectiles, an important pre-requisite for the U.S. Army.

"The bullets are as deadly to humans as their predecessors but less deadly to the Earth," the newsletter said. So while the Earth will survive a major war where tungsten bullets are furiously exchanged, there may not be any humans to actually populate it. Ironic, huh?