Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shooters Exposure to Lead - Be Safe

Lead Exposure At the Shooting Range
Sources of lead during shooting include:

The purpose of this article is not to alarm or suggest curtailing shooting or reloading activities. The intent is to educate shooters who regularly shoot firearms, aware of the possibility of lead poisoning and how to secure protection from toxic lead contamination.
The primer compound, which is made of about 50 percent lead-containing compounds
The effect of the hot propellant gases on the base of the lead bullet;
Friction of the bullet against the barrel wall;
Fragmentation of the bullet against the target and backstop.

After the bullet leaves the muzzle of a handgun, the lead-containing gases naturally stream forward, unless they are diverted by wind or ventilation-created air currents. In a handgun with a compensator, the lead-containing gases stream in the direction of the compensator vents as well as out the muzzle. In an automatic pistol, as the slide returns to eject the spent case, some lead-containing gases are directed back toward the shooter. Fragmentation of the bullet against the target and backstop results in significant lead dispersal. 

·         Use copper-covered bullets.
·          Do not shoot in a poorly ventilated indoor range.
·          Do not clean up lead dust in an indoor range without the use of a protective air filter.
·          Do not clean up the lead fragments against the backstop without the use of a protective air filter.
·          Avoid shooting on days when the wind is blowing toward you.
·          Consider limiting the time you shoot on a busy range to minimize exposure to second hand lead.
·          Consider sending as few shooters as possible to score or put up new targets in an indoor range since the air lead is highest at the target.  Share this risk.
·          Do not eat while shooting.  After shooting, wash your hands thoroughly before you eat.
·          Do not smoke while shooting.  After shooting, wash your hands thoroughly before you smoke.
·          Leave indoor ranges immediately after shooting.
·          Change your shirt after shooting to avoid exposure to the lead that accumulates on your clothes.  Wash your clothes after a trip to the range.
·          Have your blood lead checked if you shoot on a weekly basis, if you shoot or reload more than 500 rounds a month, or if you develop any symptoms of lead poisoning.
·          Consider wearing a protective air filter if your blood lead is elevated.

Lead (chemical symbol: Pb) Lead accumulates in the human body because it is one of the few ingredients not eliminated via kidney, liver or other methods of waste removal functions, thus causing damage to red blood cells. Tiny doses of lead, ingested through respiration or digestion accumulate over a long period of time can get into the blood.

Projectiles are made up of lead, copper, zinc and antimony. The common properties of a primer are: copper, zinc, lead antimony, barium, lead styphnate and tetazene. Unless the bullet is totally encased in a non-lead product (copper), elemental lead is shaved as it passes through the barrel and then dispersed into the air.

The greatest risk to shooters is the compound leads that are vaporized and formed by the burning powder. There are two sources of this dangerous gas. One is the burning powder sears the base of the lead projectile causing lead gases to be expelled with the powder residue. The next source is the vaporized lead and lead styphnate when the primer is discharged.

Well know is the fact that long term and/or short intense exposure to lead particles and dust can cause lead poisoning. The sport of shooting and reloading should be safe if you are keenly aware of toxic levels of lead.

Even the tiniest amount as small as 1/2 of 1/10 of one grain (.005), dissolved in your blood can produce adverse conditions.

  • Blow your nose after shooting;
  • Wash your hands for at least 30 seconds under running water and soap after any shooting or reloading activities;
  • Wash hair before bed. Lead particles in the hair can transfer to the pillow and thus be ingested during sleep;
  • Use lead free primers. (Copper plated is the best)
  • Your physician should test you for lead levels as part of your regular check-up;
  • Wear breathing masks for extended time on the range.
  • Change your shooting clothes and footwear so as not to contaminate car, home or office;
Common sense is the key. If lead is a toxin and part of your job involves being exposed to it, then keeping the work space and your personal gear clean is critical to avoiding the dangers.

  • Avoid exposure to lead by handling fired cases or shooting should wash their hands and face before eating, drinking or smoking;
  • Place contaminated clothes in a plastic bag to transport home to your laundry facilities;
  • Wash immediately and separately contaminated clothing.
  • Use lead-free ammunition;
  • Dry sweeping should never be practiced on the range floor;
  • Anyone engaged in shooting activities on a extensive basis should wear breathing masks.
  • Some companies specialize in lead reclamation even by "mining" lead from outdoor earth banks.
  • Shooters should have a BLL (blood lead level) test every six months.
Lead poisoning is a serious problem for frequent shooters of non- lead- free ammunition.  Lead contamination of clothing that has been exposed to lead can be a significant factor.  Beware of contamination transfer to car, house, and work environments.


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