When people think of safety at the gun range, they think in terms of handling firearms properly. But what if there were another, less obvious danger that posed a potential risk at almost any indoor shooting range? Many people who go to shooting ranges rarely think about the risk of lead dust exposure.
In a typical bullet, a solid lead core is jacketed in copper, and placed on top of a charge of gunpowder, and a lead primer. When the gun fires, the primer ignites, thus lighting the powder. Some of the lead in bullet boils, and when the casing leaves the ejection port, unseen lead particles shower out behind it.
If you happen to be in a shooting range that is not well-ventilated, lead dust gathers on the hands and clothing of the shooter. It can also be inhaled directly from the air. This becomes a bigger concern the more people shoot. For police and defense personnel, as well as range instructors, lead dust exposure can become an occupational hazard.
Lead Contamination: Understanding Exposure Risks Beyond Yourself
Not only can contamination endanger shooters, family members may be at risk of health threats as well. For example, there was a case of high lead levels in the blood of a 1-year-old boy in Connecticut. His father was employed to do maintenance at a gun range, and was unaware his clothing was contaminated with lead dust when he came home from work. This was according to a state public health department report in 2015. He would then take care of his son, which is how the lead got in his blood.
How to Reduce the Risk of Lead Poisoning at Shooting Ranges
So how can you reduce the risk of lead contamination? It starts with being informed. It’s worth knowing that the Department of Defense lowered its blood lead standard to 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. This is three times less than the prior standard, which depended on the guidelines of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. These apply to U.S. workers, and employees of firing ranges, though not necessarily customers of those ranges.
The new policy for blood levels, effective for the DoD as of April, is partly the result of report published in 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences that discovered that defense personnel face considerable health risks from lead dust in firing ranges.
“DoD’s subject matter experts in toxicology and occupational medicine used the Committee’s report to propose the lower allowable blood lead level,” Lieutenant Colonel James Brindle said to NPR.
This is why proper ventilation is an important part of a properly designed gun range.
Reducing risks of lead contamination means wearing protective breathing guards, not to mention gloves, eyeglasses, hats, and anything you can use to keep lead dust off of your skin. Not only that, if you can figure out a way to leave these items at the range so that you bring as little of the dust outside the range as possible, that will help contain the dust as well.
Learn More About Staying Safe at Indoor Gun Ranges with Expert Guidance
To learn more about staying safe at indoor gun ranges from lead dust and other dangers, contact us online or call us at 402-875-6500.