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  QUESTION: Elevated blood lead level from target shooting & ammunition, 16 May 2003,Ontario Canada

To whom it may concern.

I have just been informed that my lead level is elevated.

The level is 2.96. My exposure comes from reloading lead bullets as i am a target shooter. I have manufactured ammunition for over 20 years and am not experiencing any health difficulties. If i were to use surgical gloves would this lessen my exposure?

In addition, what if any methods can be utilized in reducing my levels apart from cessation of the practise

Thank You
Edward Dore'

NSWER: 19 May 2003

Dear Edward,usually the most serious lead exposure with your sport is from breathing fumes which arise when the gun is fired as well as possibly during the manufacture of the ammunition so although wearing gloves or otherwise avoiding skin contact with lead bullets will help, the major aim would be to protect yourself from the fumes. For example, if you shoot indoors, you should ensure that the air extraction system is fully functional and that the air you are breathing is as clean as possible. This may entail wearing a respirator fitted with a HEPA filter or at least a P2 mask. You may need to present your very high blood lead level results to the management (to convince them to re-evaluate their hazard management plan) and propose that other shooters have blood lead tests if this has not already occurred. You will also want to stop smoking during shooting activities if indeed you do smoke. Smoking when there is lead in the air can as much as double your blood lead level compared to a non-smoker in the same environment. You need to ensure that you do not shoot while you have an empty stomach. The empty stomach is more acidic and thus more lead is absorbed on an empty stomach. Eat a diet rich in calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin C and protein - before you shoot and always wash your hands before eating and drinking afterwards. If you have young children they would also be at risk of lead poisoning (and should therefore have a blood lead test) if you do not shower and change into clean clothes after shooting and before going home.

Some alternative doctors would use chelation treatment for a person with your blood lead level, especially if you began to show symptoms. The symptoms of lead poisoning are so common, it would be surprising if you have none of them. Check out the list at Health Impacts of Lead Poisoning and discuss chelation treatment with your doctor or see whether there is an alternative doctor trained in chelation therapy in your area by going to the website of The American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) - or the excellent Canadian website of Kelly O'Grady, The First Six Years.

Let us know how fast your blood lead results go down. It's certainly not safe to do nothing.

Yours sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

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