Scientists find risk of lead exposure comes from both ends of firearms

April 20, 2017, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science
A woman is shooting at a gun range. Credit: ssonline1349 via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Risks from firearms actually come from both ends of the barrel, according to an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis study.

Individuals at firing ranges are exposed to very high amounts of lead from shooting firearms, and is as high at outdoor firing ranges as it is at indoor ranges. These findings are based on a comprehensive literature review led by Gabriel Filippelli, professor of earth sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI, and his team.

"I am particularly concerned about children, who can be exposed by using the firing ranges themselves or through the fine lead-laden dust adhering to clothes and skin that Mom or Dad brings home," Filippelli said. "It is important to have a frank reassessment of the overall protections for individuals who utilize firing ranges, be that for occupational or recreational purposes."

Recreational users of firing ranges typically do not use protection against lead and exhibit dangerously high levels in their blood. Protections employed by law enforcement, the military and others who work at firing ranges are outdated, according to Filippelli.

"The main exposure culprit appears to be the lead used in the primer of bullets," Filippelli said. "The fine dust generated from this primer blows back onto the shooter, where it is inhaled or adheres to clothing and skin. A secondary exposure source is likely the fragmentation of bullets as they leave the end of the barrel."

One of the health impacts of lead exposure is poor judgment and lower impulsivity control, Filippelli said. "These are not desirable characteristics in people whose job it is to 'serve and protect,' and therefore we should be doing a better job of protecting the health of our and military than current occupational guidelines provide."

The authors provided safety recommendations including conducting a careful reexamination of the allowable lead levels in individuals who frequent firing ranges for occupational reasons, developing better education around risks for recreational users, and continuing the push to find lead-free substitutes for bullets and primer.

"Lead Exposure at Firing Ranges—A Review" was published online April 4 in the peer-reviewed, open access journal Environmental Health.

Explore further: Call to phase out lead bullets at shooting ranges

More information: Mark A. S. Laidlaw et al. Lead exposure at firing ranges—a review, Environmental Health (2017). DOI: 10.1186/s12940-017-0246-0

Related Stories

Call to phase out lead bullets at shooting ranges

April 5, 2017
Lead released when people fire weapons at shooting ranges creates such a health risk that lead bullets should be phased out, according to new research.

58 million Americans are exposed to loud, frequent noises, including firearms, at work and home

March 16, 2017
Loud noise exposure is a common environmental hazard in the United States that can lead to hearing loss and other conditions such as sleep disturbance, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In a study published today in The ...

Fumes from military small arms lead to decline in lung function

September 9, 2013
Exposure to fumes released during the firing of military small arms can lead to a decline in lung function, according to a new study.

Study establishes lung health response to cement dust exposure

April 21, 2016
Long-term exposure to cement dust at levels that are comparable to the present occupational exposure limits could cause a decline in lung volumes, according to a new study.

Landmark study defines normal ranges for testosterone levels

January 10, 2017
A large study of more than 9,000 men has established harmonized reference ranges for total testosterone in men that when applied to assays that have been appropriately calibrated will effectively enable clinicians to make ...

New Zealand children's exposure to lead linked to lower IQ

March 28, 2017
Extremely high levels of lead in New Zealand cities in the 1970s and 1980s appear responsible for a loss of intelligence and occupational standing among today's adults.

Recommended for you

Living the high life: How altitude influences bone growth

June 19, 2018
High altitude is a particularly challenging environment—the terrain is physically challenging and the land has a relatively poor crop yield, so food can be sparse. Most importantly, oxygen levels are lower meaning that ...

Risks of cancer and mortality by average lifetime alcohol intake

June 19, 2018
The risk of mortality, and of developing a number of cancers, is lowest in light drinkers consuming an average of less than one drink per day across their lifetime, and the risk of some cancers increases with each additional ...

Bad habits that lead to cancer, chronic disease corrected by simple lifestyle intervention

June 19, 2018
Does this sound like someone you know? He or she spends too much time in front of screens, gets little exercise and eats a diet high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables.

Introduction of alcohol found to adversely impact fertility rates in hunter-gatherer community

June 19, 2018
Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a research director with the French National Centre for Scientific Research has found that the introduction of alcohol to a Baka pygmy hunter-gatherer society caused fertility rates to fall. In his ...

Graphic warning labels linked to reduced sugary drink purchases

June 18, 2018
Warning labels that include photos linking sugary drink consumption with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay, may reduce purchases of the drinks, according to a new study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Greater levels of vitamin D associated with decreasing risk of breast cancer

June 15, 2018
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine suggest higher levels of vitamin D are associated with decreasing risk of breast cancer. Their epidemiological study is published in the June 15 online ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.