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C.N. Double

Elevated lead levels in new/young(ish) shooter

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Howdy,


I've seen several threads about lead exposure, and I feel like I've been doing a good job of minimizing my exposure based on what I've learned on the wire, but it hasn't been enough. Please consider this a PSA, especially to younger folks, to get your lead levels checked. Mine are higher than they should be (not terribly high, but elevated nonetheless).

 

Because I started shooting more and handling more ammo in the past year, I asked my doc to check my blood lead level just to make sure I was doing the right things. I doubted it would be high, but I wanted the piece of mind. Well, I'm glad I had it checked.


Here are some facts:

-I started shooting with SASS in February, and I started reloading in March. I went from shooting less than once per year to almost once a week.

-I've loaded and shot roughly 10-12k rounds this year.

-I often spot or pick brass if I'm not shooting (close to the firing line).

-I'm in my early 30s.

-I always wash my hands before eating, but I do drink water on the range (but I'm careful to not touch rim of water bottle with hands).

-I dry tumble brass in my garage, but I stay out of the garage while the tumbler is running.

-Shooting/reloading are the only sources of lead exposure I can think of

 

My lead level is at 11, which isn't that high, but the point is that it is higher than normal when I thought I was doing everything right. I even thought I was being too careful sometimes. My doctor says above 5 is considered high, but they won't treat for high levels until you get to 24. He did concede that 11 isn't bad, but that I should try to bring it down to avoid long-term effects. This is especially important to me since I hope to be an old fart someday.

 

Here's my plan:

1. Wear a P100 respirator when cleaning/sorting brass

2. Spend a little less time on the firing line spotting and picking

3. I'll consider alternatives to drinking water at the range, but I don't think I can improve there much besides washing before I take every drink. I drink a lot of water (1 gal+/day), so drinking less water isn't really an option.

4. Be more diligent about changing clothes and showering after shooting/loading/cleaning guns. Moonshine Agnes will appreciate this too.

4. Check level again in ~6 months

 

Here's more info from the CDC about "safe" lead levels: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ables/description.html

 

Thanks for reading -- I hope this helps someone else out there!

 

Cheers,

C.N. Double

(formerly Lobo Too Slow)

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Are you wearing a respirator when you dump out your tumbler? That is more or less the #1 place to get exposure. I was able to get mine under control by just switching to wet tumbling and I returned to a normal level pretty quickly.

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4 minutes ago, El Cubano said:

Are you wearing a respirator when you dump out your tumbler? That is more or less the #1 place to get exposure. I was able to get mine under control by just switching to wet tumbling and I returned to a normal level pretty quickly.

I haven't been, but that is part of the plan. I'll start wearing the respirator any time I'm messing with the tumbler or sorting brass.

 

Thanks for the advice!

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Are you wearing gloves when handling used brass, or when reloading?  You might try using coated bullets, if you're using the plain lead types.  Also, try wiping down hands with D-lead wipes, or the ones sold by Hoppes.  Wiping down the area around the tumbler is also something to consider as the dust spreads.  Maybe dumping contents of the tumbler outside is possible. 

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Also, does your tumbler have a cover? If not, i've got a friend that actually uses a big tote he puts over the tumbler to cut down on the contamination. I read an article that said a tumbler can fling lead out in a 10 foot radius, so basically cover a 20 foot circle in lead.

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I worked at a lead smelter from '78 to '01, and don't believe I was EVER below 20. Early on, blood lead levels in the 50's and 60's were very common. Twenty four was around the level they let you go back to work if you had been on in-plant medical removal for high blood lead... 26 or 27 sticks in my mind...

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You shoot'n indoors or outside?

YES, on using a respirator when removing/separation from the tumbler, if you dry tumble. 

What was your lead count before this last check up? Ya need a base line to start with..........;)

Start buy'n 'coated' bullets.

OLG

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I have been shooting for 80 years. I have been reloading for 60 years and shooting black powder for most of my life. I also shot thousands of black powder blanks as a sailing judge and race officer for over 50 years.

 

I have my lead level checked regularly. It is always normal.

Quote

 

 

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I use coated bullets (was using moly-coated, but recently switched to hi-tek). I used to wear rubber gloves for the moly bullets, but I don't with the hi-tek bullets.

 

My tumbler does have a lid, and I even cover the tumbler with a towel while it's running to further reduce the dust. I use D-lead soap to wash, but I'll get some wipes to clean around the tumbler as well. I'll also start dumping the tumbler outside. As others have said, I think the dust might be my biggest source of contamination. I've read mineral spirits in the media can reduce dust, so I'll consider that as well. I do use rooster bright or nu-finish.

 

This was my first lead test, but I don't think you should have any lead in your body naturally, so there isn't exactly a normal range -- there is only "not high".

 

I'm only shooting outdoors.

 

I'm not really worried about this level, but I was surprised it was elevated. This post is sort of a "it will never happen to me" story for those like me who haven't had their levels checked.

 

Thanks again for the comments. These are some things I've either not considered or have previously ignored thinking I was being "careful enough."

 

 

 

 

 

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Lead is everywhere.

Your greatest exposer is from the dry tumbling.

I would not cover the tumbler. That electric motor needs air circulation to keep cool.

I use a shot-glass full of Turtle Wax Polishing Compound in the media, when I was still dry tumbling.

OLG

 

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Not drinking water at a match in Arizona will get you into other troubles pretty quickly!!  I doubt the drinking water is the source of your lead exposure.

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There was an article in one of the monthly Cowboy Chronicles a few years ago that went into good detail about lead exposure. I'll try looking it up again. It seems that most of the lead we are exposed to comes from the primers not the bullets. 

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Due to your recent experience into shooting and reloading,  I would question if shooting/reloading was the cause of your lead levels.  Your careful in your approach to prevent the problem,  BUT could it actually be caused by something else?  Being you had no base level to compare.   Keep up the safety side and  see what happens.  We all need to know more about this problem..   On the other side 1 of my friends developed high lead levels and it got blamed on absorbtion thru his hands will cleaning his guns in solvent(cracks in his skin)      Good luck    GW

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Its been mentioned but wear gloves (i use the throw away plastic gloves that come in boxes of 100) when cleaning your brass and getting it out of the Tumbler your skin will absorb lead.

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I was in a similar situation, and used the same measures as you noted.

Although anecdotal, I also added Spirulina, supposedly a mild chelater.  These measures provided me a 23% reduction in 6 months.

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For adults, quoting CDC, below 80 does not require treatment. 40 or above, limit exposure and recheck in 6 months. For an active shooter and reloader. Between 10 to 20 may be normal. You need a base level and monitor frequently. Dry tumbling and indoor shooting, and spent primers are number one two and three on the exposure list. Wear a dust mask, respirator and empty the dry tumbler outside. Mine just came back at 20. Doc said reduce exposure as much as possilbe and retest later.

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My first check 6 months ago was 16 it is now 14.5, so not much change.  I use poly coared bullets, also wear disposable nitrile gloves when dealing with brass and bullets either cleaning or reloading.  I use wet tumbling outside the workshop.  I use d lead as soon as I get home.  Not sure what else I can do.

I also do a lot of spotting.  I also try to be careful drinking at the range but as mentioned heat stroke worries me more.  I do not use a mask but would not think getting dust especially wet tumble and outdoors.  It worries me as well.

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how old is the house you live in?  modern windows?  lead painted windows and the dust they create is the major cause of lead problems in children in older homes,,,

 

tip,,,  if you do have an older home or structures,,  lead painted cracks in straight lines,,,,like an alligator skin...

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27 minutes ago, Cheyenne Culpepper 32827 said:

how old is the house you live in?  modern windows?  lead painted windows and the dust they create is the major cause of lead problems in children in older homes,,,

 

tip,,,  if you do have an older home or structures,,  lead painted cracks in straight lines,,,,like an alligator skin...

A test of other members of the household could reveal problems,  we RECENTLY had all the lead water pipe removed from the small town we live at.  GW

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Snake Eye... Yes, the article was in the March 2015 issue of The Cowboy Chronicle and I was the author. I've been doing a bunch of research on Blood Lead Levels (BLL) since, and have been asked by several gun-related organizations to use/distribute that article*. Your BLL of 11 does not pose a serious threat, but certainly continue work to keep it down. Dust exposure when opening dry tumblers is a problem, but one of the greatest areas of lead dust exposure is on the firing line, and more specifically where the shooter is. The cloud of lead particulate in the 5' to 6' sphere around the gun - from dust-like specks to visible chunks - is remarkable. And because the TO is on the active firing line the longest, he/she has the greatest exposure.

 

A great natural chelation (lead reducing) agent is a natural herb called Spirulina. Taking a teaspoon a day will be good for your health and will remove lead from your system. I shoot 3-4 matches a month, clean and reload rounds, and so on - and my wife and I both take a teaspoon of Spirulina in a protein drink almost every morning. My BLL was 8.6 (tested three months ago), and before taking Spirulina a few years back it was a high as 18! Several shooters in clubs I'm associated with have also had great success with Spirulina. Chlorella and cilantro are also good natural chelation agents.

RR

* There's a lot more info in the article and you can download a free copy of that article (PDF white paper) from our club's web site: www.PRVCatLazyArrow.com and click on the "DOCUMENTS/PAPERS" tab.

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Lots of great discussion here, pards -- thanks again.

 

@Roger Rapid -- This is an excellent article! My (lead-covered) hat is off to you, Sir!

 

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My experience is it can vary from Doc to Doc on what id good or bad. 

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Maybe I missed it, I'm old I miss a lot of things :rolleyes:

Wearing gloves while reloading is nice but you darn sure better wear them while cleaning your guns!!!

 

That solvent dissolves lead which is quickly absorbed into your pores

 

again if I missed it sorry , can't  believe nobody brought it up?!

 

and don't touch your nose or lips while reloading, shooting, or gun cleaning!!:blink:

  what you do behind closed doors is your own business!!:lol::rolleyes:

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Last year my level was 7. I use disposable gloves when cleaning guns with solvent and I wet tumble my brass. Seldom eat while reloading or shooting but water is a must. I don't like shooting at the local indoor ranges because I can taste gun smoke in the air and the lighting is poor. Or is it my eyes?

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Lead Monger we had a fairly new state of the art indoor range here that's been fined out the wazoo by EPA for lead levels.

read their site and they have state of the art filtration systems...YEAH RIGHT!!

Several employees had excessively hi lead levels and quit!!

good point and again how did everybody miss that?!

 sure there's more we missed , keep it coming.....

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I went in for a check up last week, high blood pressure and pollen induced asthma.  Hydrocholorizide for the BP, Advair for the asthma.  I asked them to check my lead, which they didn't want to do, but I insisted.  They just called and it was 36.  I use a dry tumbler in the garage, I think I may be getting most of it from there.  I'll probably move to a wet tumbler, but I want to pull everything out of the garage and decontaminate.  Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

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I've been following the reports of higher than average blood lead levels that have been posted here for the last 15 years. 

 

Here's the major ways folks get lead intake when cowboy shooting, roughly in what I estimate to be the worst sources (based upon the number of shooters who have reported on this forum their high blood levels and where and how they shot and cleaned up):

 

* airborne lead at indoor ranges (mostly from primers) - inhaled.  This exposure is VERY common, can be VERY heavy, and is the main reason that OSHA has come down hard on public and police indoor shooting ranges, and that we have non-toxic pistol ammunition available.

 

* lead oxides from cases and spent primers dislodged during cleaning - inhaled and possible skin absorption if wet cleaning.   Keep dry tumbling out of living areas and non-ventilated spaces.  Control dust.  Clean the floor.  If wet cleaning, dispose of the cleaning solutions (which carry lead) carefully.   Wearing a lead-qualified breathing filter helps a lot.   MOST hardware-store dust masks are not capable of removing fine lead from your air, however!

 

* airborne lead at outdoor ranges (primers, and shotgun pellets atomizing into "gray clouds" on vertical targets) - inhaled and possible ingestion from fine dust on skin and hair

 

* solvent-carried lead from gun cleaning (both fired primer residue and bore/action of the gun) - skin absorption

 

* poor hygiene during and following shooting - failing to clean hands, face, hair after shooting, cleaning or reloading and before eating - ingestion

 

* casting bullets - low inhalation exposure if properly ventilating the casting area and containing the waste dross from cleaning the lead (which is dusty and easily airborne).  Melting lead at normal temperatures (less than 800 F) puts almost untraceable amounts of lead into the air.  It's the other operations done while casting that are much more capable of contaminating the operator or clothing.

 

* handling lead bullets while reloading - almost no link to lead uptake

 

Folks who do a lot of ROing often are exposed to much more "range lead" than the shooter who does not work the line.   They are right behind 5 or more shooters on every stage - just about where primer residue sprays out of our guns, as well as the exposure they get when running their own guns.

 

Because it is SO hard to find well studied cause-and-effect data for lead uptake in the body, we do have to be a little cautious about all the possible exposure routes.   Don't just work on one of the possible exposures and expect that to make a big difference to blood levels.  Pay attention to all of them, but there are a lot of us shooting without major problems from lead exposure.   So, be cautious but not worried, I would say.

 

Good luck, GJ

 

 

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This is very helpful Joe.  I suspect my biggest issues are:

 

Tumbler dust- I need to get a mask and clean the floor of my garage - probably run an extension cord and use the cleaner out in the side yard on the slope where no one goes. 

Airborne lead at the range - I TO a pretty good bit, may need to skip shotgun target resets or cut back on TOing. 

Poor hygiene after the match - I always wash my hands thoroughly, but didn't think about face and beard, no hair on my head so that's not an issue.  I may have everyone start taking a shower after a match.

 

Is 36 a high number? The blood doc can't see me for a month.

 

The kids are going to have to go in and have theirs checked too.  They won't like it, but it needs to be done. 

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Captain Bill Burt said:

Is 36 a high number? The blood doc can't see me for a month.

 

By current standards it is way too high.

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Tumbler dust, and wind on the range are among the biggest sources for inhaling lead.

Do you take you shoe/boots off before entering your house, after a shoot? You really should........

Remember, your clothes are covered too.

OLG

 

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3 minutes ago, Captain Bill Burt said:

Is 36 a high number? The blood doc can't see me for a month.

 

 

Standards change. I worked at a lead smelter for 23 years, and blood lead levels of 60+ were common. Then in 1982, NIOSH mandated medical removal at 50, with the employee allowed to return to work when their blood lead level dropped to 40 or below. The place has been shut down for nearly 20 years now, but toward the end, I think in-plant medical removal was 40, and we'd be released to work out in the plant again at 28. Some people are much more susceptible than others too. I would see maintenance people with their respirator hanging around their neck working in buildings where the smoke was so thick you couldn't see the opposite wall, and their blood lead levels were in the teens. I was a pipefitter, and took every practical precaution, but still spent 4-5 months every year on in-plant medical removal. I have a cousin who worked a mostly office and shop job in the same plant, and he also had a hell of a time keeping his blood lead level down.

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This is very helpful information.  I'm not panicking and not too worried about myself, but I want the kids numbers ASAP.  I suspect my tumbler in the garage is the biggest issue. 

 

So, no more garage tumbling, do it outdoors.  Get the dust up somehow without breathing it, wash everything down.  Vacuum around the reloader and maybe deep clean the carpet. 

 

I'm going to have to set up a decontamination protocol for everyone after every match, shoes off (how do I get the lead off the boots?), clothes in the washer, take a shower.

 

Again, very helpful information and any additional suggestions are welcome.

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1 hour ago, Captain Bill Burt said:

I want the kids numbers ASAP

Kids have thinner and more permeable skin than adults. My doctor said my kids were definitely absorbing the dust through their hands although most places say that you can't. Unfortunately, the kids are the ones that are asked to pick up brass and set up targets. I have gloves for them to use when doing that. We also use a product called "gloves in a bottle" when shooting. My doctor tested it and said that it does help prevent absorption.

 

We have also become better at keeping our shooting clothes separated and wash them with a special lead removal soap. We found that it previously wasn't all coming out in the wash. Which caused lead to get into their other clothes and even bedding. 

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