Fighting the Hidden Killer: Lead Dust in Commercial Firing Ranges

The popularity of shooting has soared dramatically with an estimated 40 million recreational shooters in the US alone every year. However, a hidden killer crouches within America’s estimated 16,000-18,000 gun ranges. When shooters shoot guns with lead-based ammunition, they spread lead dust and fumes which can lead to serious health problems.

Health Risks Associated With Lead Exposure at Commercial Firing Ranges

According to a study conducted by Environmental Health, individuals who frequent or work at firing ranges had blood lead levels from between two to eight times the level of exposure considered acceptable by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to lead dust and fumes at both indoor and outdoor firing ranges presents a potential health hazard to shooters, range employees, and their families.

Exposure to lead in indoor firing ranges comes basically from breathing in lead particles suspended in the air within the range. Fine and coarse lead particles from both the primer and bullet fragments can also stick to their hands, hair, skin, clothing, and other surfaces, and can be accidently ingested.

On the other hand, lead exposure from outdoor ranges stems mainly from spent shotgun pellets and rifle bullets, which also involves matter fired into backstops. This also poses an environmental hazard as lead can also contaminate the outdoor range’s surrounding environment.

Employees and shooters in many firing ranges unknowingly accumulate so much lead that steadily poisons their bodies. When exposed, the symptoms may barely be noticeable initially. However, prolonged and continued lead exposure can damage the brain, blood, nerves, kidneys and reproductive organs. The damage can also cause memory loss, extreme tiredness, emotional problems, kidney failure, even coma or death.

Children are also especially vulnerable to lead exposure. Lead dust can attach to shooters’ or employees’ clothing during the day. They unintentionally carry lead residue or what is known as take-home lead that can contaminate their cars and homes, inevitably exposing young children to lead-contaminated dust. Moreover, medical research has revealed that exposure to lead can affect a child’s behavior and intellectual development. It can cause damage to their brain and nervous system that  results in slowed growth and development, learning, behavior problems, as well as hearing and speech difficulties.

It has long been acknowledged that police officers, soldiers, and others who train with firearms are exposed to a significant amount of lead dust and fumes. Fortunately, there are strict workplace rules and regulations in place to minimize their exposure and to regularly monitor their blood lead levels for safety purposes. However, the same cannot be said for recreational shooters. Commercial ranges are not subject to the same kind of strict safety regulations as workplaces.

Reducing Lead Hazards at the Firing Range

Lead poisoning is avoidable. Good range-management and basic personal hygiene practices can minimize or even eliminate the risk of lead exposure. The following simple steps are recommended to avoid lead exposure in firing ranges:

• Make sure the range is correctly ventilated and that the ventilation system is working properly.
• At the range, wash your hands and face before eating, drinking or smoking.
• Wash hands and face before leaving the range.
• Wash range clothes separately from the rest of the family’s clothes.
• Always load bullets in a ventilated area.
• Do not load bullets at home or in areas children frequent.
• Do not allow children into the bullet loading area.
• Keep the bullet loading area clean by using detergent.

Protecting the health of employees, customers, and their families, while also reducing environmental contamination from lead exposure, is crucial to the safety plan of commercial firing ranges.

InVeris Training Solutions has all the resources you need under one roof to guide you through the processes of range design, development, and management. Our GranTrap™ granulated rubber bullet trap also boasts a patented stair-step design and is the industry's first environmentally friendly option that minimizes airborne lead dust.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about InVeris Solutions’ commercial shooting range products and how we can help you prevent lead contamination in your shooting range.

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