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IUPUI Study Finds Gun Users Are Exposed To High Levels Of Lead

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Photo: Susie Morris (Flickr)

Experts recommend precautions such as using dusk masks, changing clothes, and washing hands after a shooting session.

Gun users are exposed to high levels of lead, according to a recent study from researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Researchers found that firing a gun at a shooting range, either indoors or outdoors, releases a high level of lead-filled dust that coats the shooter.

The study reviewed 36 published articles looking at the blood lead levels of people who visited both indoor and outdoor gun ranges. Nearly all blood lead levels reported were well above levels deemed safe by the Centers for Disease Control.

Professor of Earth Sciences at IUPUI Gabriel Filippelli says the study also found lead exposure at indoor ranges was no higher than outdoor ranges.

“We had presumed that indoor ranges accumulate a lot of lead in a confined space, and outdoors, there’s lots of air to dilute the lead issues,” he says.

Filippelli says the findings point to the bullet primer as the cause. The primer is the explosive component that sits behinds the bullet. It’s comprised of about 40 percent lead, and when the primer combusts, it releases a cloud of fine lead dust.

One way to reduce exposure would be to find primer that does not use lead. However, Filippelli says no satisfactory alternatives have been found.

“Most of those efforts have failed,” Filippelli says. “They just have not been able to find alternatives to lead that perform at the level that you need it to in actual practice.”

Filippelli says those most at risk of exposure are recreational users.

He recommends precautions such as using dust masks, changing clothes, and washing hands after a shooting session. He says these measures can significantly reduce exposure.

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