Lead exposure at firing ranges - a review

Mark A. S. Laidlaw, Gabriel Filippelli, Howard Mielke, Brian Gulson, Andrew S. Ball

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)
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    Abstract

    Background: Lead (Pb) is a toxic substance with well-known, multiple, long-term, adverse health outcomes. Shooting guns at firing ranges is an occupational necessity for security personnel, police officers, members of the military, and increasingly a recreational activity by the public. In the United States alone, an estimated 16,000-18,000 firing ranges exist. Discharge of Pb dust and gases is a consequence of shooting guns.

    Methods: The objectives of this study are to review the literature on blood lead levels (BLLs) and potential adverse health effects associated with the shooting population. The search terms "blood lead", "lead poisoning", "lead exposure", "marksmen", "firearms", "shooting", "guns", "rifles" and "firing ranges" were used in the search engines Google Scholar, PubMed and Science Direct to identify studies that described BLLs in association with firearm use and health effects associated with shooting activities.

    Results: Thirty-six articles were reviewed that included BLLs from shooters at firing ranges. In 31 studies BLLs > 10 μg/dL were reported in some shooters, 18 studies reported BLLs > 20 μg/dL, 17 studies > 30 μg/d, and 15 studies BLLs > 40 μg/dL. The literature indicates that BLLs in shooters are associated with Pb aerosol discharge from guns and air Pb at firing ranges, number of bullets discharged, and the caliber of weapon fired.

    Conclusions: Shooting at firing ranges results in the discharge of Pb dust, elevated BLLs, and exposures that are associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes. Women and children are among recreational shooters at special risk and they do not receive the same health protections as occupational users of firing ranges. Nearly all BLL measurements compiled in the reviewed studies exceed the current reference level of 5 μg/dL recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (CDC/NIOSH). Thus firing ranges, regardless of type and user classification, currently constitute a significant and unmanaged public health problem. Prevention includes clothing changed after shooting, behavioural modifications such as banning of smoking and eating at firing ranges, improved ventilation systems and oversight of indoor ranges, and development of airflow systems at outdoor ranges. Eliminating lead dust risk at firing ranges requires primary prevention and using lead-free primers and lead-free bullets.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number34
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    Number of pages15
    JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
    Volume16
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

    Keywords

    • Blood
    • Lead
    • Poisoning
    • Shooting
    • Range
    • Firearms
    • Health
    • Effects
    • Expert shooter
    • Guns

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