Lead Exposure at Firing Ranges

What is the Risk of Lead Poisoning at Firing Ranges

September 23, 2022

Jason Ferrier

A trip to the firing range can do more than keep you in practice with your firearm of choice.  Shooting range sessions improve hand-eye coordination, build arm strength, improve balance, and relieve stress and anxiety.  However, if you frequently visit or work for a firing range, there is also a risk to your health from lead exposure.  Most types of ammunition contain lead.  When a gun is fired, small lead particles and fumes containing lead are released into the air where they can be breathed in.  The impact of bullets against targets or backstops also releases lead particles.  Handling spent casings or used bullets can also stir up lead particles.  Proper air filtration systems, cleaning procedures, and other safety precautions can help minimize the risk but exposure over a long period of time is still a potential problem.  Besides the exposure at the range itself, there is also the concern that range employees or patrons may be inadvertently taking lead particles home with them on their clothes or skin which can then pose a risk to other people in their household.  Knowing the risks and signs of lead poisoning as well as the importance of taking preventative measures including routine lead blood testing can help you avoid serious health problems. 

Symptoms of lead poisoning

Symptoms of lead poisoning may not develop right away.  In adults, it can take months or even years of lead exposure before you develop symptoms.  When symptoms do develop, they can be difficult to interpret because they are often common to other illnesses.  Some symptoms of lead poisoning can include headache, nausea, abdominal pain, pain in the joints or muscles, difficulty concentrating or remembering, constipation, fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability, and tingling in the hands or feet.  Lead exposure can also cause elevated blood pressure.  In men, lead exposure can cause reduced sperm counts.

Risks of lead exposure

Lead that is inhaled, absorbed, or ingested can be stored in the bones, blood, or tissues.  While some lead is removed from the body through urine and feces, the removal process will take longer depending on the amount of exposure.  Some lead can remain in the body for years.  Chronic lead poisoning can cause a number of serious health complications including heart disease, kidney disease, or brain damage.  People with long-term lead exposure have a higher risk of becoming anemic or developing high blood pressure.  Pregnant women can pass lead to their unborn child which can lead to birth defects or miscarriage.  Both men and women can experience infertility as a result of lead exposure.  Lead exposure in children can cause developmental problems, learning disabilities, and neurological disorders.

How to protect yourself from lead exposure.

While the risks of lead poisoning can be serious, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid taking trips to the firing range.  If you work at a range, exposure is unavoidable but should still be handled as safely as possible.  Taking precautions can help minimize the risk of lead exposure for you and the people around you. 

  • Review the ventilation standards at your local range.  Most standard HVAC systems are not sufficient to remove high concentrations of lead particles from the air.  If the range you visit doesn’t have a specialized system, find one that does.
  • Don’t bring food or drink to the range.  Lead particles can settle on foods or beverages and be ingested.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands, face, and any other exposed skin after visiting a range or handling spent casings or any other materials including clothes that may have lead on them.
  • Bring a change of clothes and shoes to the range.  Change out of the clothes you wear while firing before heading home.  Keep clothing items that have been exposed to lead in a sealed bag.  Multiple wash cycles may be necessary to fully remove lead particulate from clothes.  Look for laundry detergents that are specially designed for lead removal.

No matter what precautions you take, you should not leave your health to chance.  The surest way to make sure you are not at risk for lead exposure is to take a simple blood test to check your lead levels.  Firing range employees are usually recommended to get tested every six months.  Employers should have a protocol in place to reduce exposure and do repeat testing for anyone whose results are above acceptable levels.  It may be a good idea to have family members who live in the same household get periodically tested as well. 

For patrons of firing ranges, a periodic test is recommended, especially if you start to experience symptoms associated with lead poisoning.  How often you should test will depend on how frequently you visit the range.  It’s always a good idea to get your doctor’s opinion on how best to safeguard your health.  If you do get tested and your levels are above normal, follow up with your doctor to determine the appropriate follow-up.

Where can I get a lead blood test near me?

Request A Test is committed to making it as easy as possible for anyone to order their own lab testing.  We provide discounted lead blood testing at over 4,000 lab locations across the US.  If you are at risk of lead exposure, don’t wait to get tested.  There’s no need to schedule a doctor’s visit and no insurance is needed.  Just order online from our website to call our office at 888-732-2348 to speak to a team member.  We’ll help you place an order and you can go to a local lab as early as the same day.  Most test results only take a few business days to come back so you can get answers quickly.  In addition to lead testing, we offer a full selection of tests for other heavy metals as well as a variety of general health screens.  Enjoy your time at the range but be responsible about your health.  Request A Test is here to make taking charge of your health convenient and affordable.

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