LEAD Action News
Vol 2 no 3
Lead Bullets Wound at Both Ends of the Barrel
Reprinted from Toxic the newsletter of the Toxic Chemicals Committee of the Total Environment Centre, March 1994, with kind permission.
California has a lead poisoning surveillance program which records persons with blood concentrations over 60 µg/dL. Some of the industries which feature are construction, lead smelting, battery manufacture, brass founding, radiator repair, pottery - and shooting ranges.
David Ozonoff of Boston University Department of Public Health writing in The Lancet suggests that lead poisoning of employees at weapons ranges may be more significant than formerly realised. Exposure comes from airborne lead primer (the material that precurses the ignition of the gunpowder in bullets), and also from the shearing of fine lead particles as the bullet passes through the weapon. These sources are close to the breathing zone of the user.
Ozonoff describes three police instructors at an indoor range with blood lead concentrations over 100 µg/dL. Yet even at outdoor ranges, for pistols and rifles, in employees and users, average blood burdens are about 50 µg/dL. Air lead concentrations at ranges appear to average 100-200 µg/m3 at the low end, but have been measured at 660, 2000, 2700, 5000 µg/m3, and even up to 18,000 µg/m3!
Occupational TLVs (threshold limit values) for air lead are 50 µg/m3 in USA; 100 µg/m3 in New Zealand; and 150 µg/m3 in Australia.
Some researchers have recommended screening employees of ranges. One police officer who worked part time two days/month at a private range had a blood lead concentration of 65 µg/dL.
Reference: David Ozonoff . Lead on the range. The Lancet, Volume 343, Issue 8888, Pages 6 - 7, 1 January 1994 http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(94)90871-0/fulltext. §
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Updated 12 November 2012