Six frustrations of law enforcement firing ranges are protecting police officers from lead. Law enforcement officers use caution protecting and serving the public, and they also must use caution practicing at a firing range.
Police officers visit firing ranges as part of their job duties, which includes target practice. If they go to the same firing range several times a week, the risk of exposure from lead is dependent upon the guidelines followed by that particular firing range. So, officers should understand the forms and paths of lead particles.
Shooting a firearm creates lead. If any of the microscopic sized, airborne lead particles enter the body, either by inhaling or swallowing, these particles transform into lead compounds by the digestive system. Airborne lead compounds then pass through the linings of the lungs and enter the bloodstream.
Eventually, lead will exit the body on its own — depending upon the amount of lead exposed to the officer. It’s no wonder shooting ranges offer a frustrating risk to police officers.
Here are six tips for police officers to lower the risk of lead exposure:
- Ventilation is key in protecting officers from lead exposure. An outdoor range is the best choice because of the fresh air and less likelihood of lead particles settling down on clothing, shoes, or other personal items. However, if the only choice is an indoor firing range, be sure an excellent ventilation system is in place.
- If you notice that the smoke from the gun, when fired, is not diminishing within a few seconds or if the air doesn’t smell clean, immediately notify management. You can always return on another day — after calling the range and inquiring if the ventilation works properly. Or better yet, go somewhere else.
- When you have finished your session at the firing range, wear disposable gloves to pick up your spent casings. This small gesture protects you from lead particles on the casings. The disposable gloves fit in your range bag without taking up a lot of space.
- Most indoor ranges do not allow food or beverages. Because lead particles are airborne, they’ll land on your food. Your exposure increases when you take another bite of food or a sip of a drink. Also, avoid smoking while indoors. Cigarettes placed on the counter while you are shooting are prime targets for lead particles. Inhaling that cigarette with lead particles attached to it leads to ingesting the lead particles through your lungs and into your digestive system.
- Wash your hands thoroughly when your session is over at the indoor firing range. Use COLD water and soap. Your skin pores will stay closed by the cold water and this will increase your chances of non-absorption. When you are shooting at an outdoor range, carry a container of D-lead wipes in your range bag. The wipes will remove some of the lead residue until you wash your hands with cold water and soap.
- Change your clothes and shoes when you get home. Put your clothing in the washer as soon as possible. Following this procedure after every visit keeps your family and pets from exposure to lead residue.
Tips to Prevent Lead Poisoning
Lead Management & OSHA Compliance for Indoor Shooting Ranges
Law enforcement protects the public, but who protects our valuable law enforcement officers from the effects of lead exposure at indoor firing ranges?
Estimates state that over one million law enforcement officers train at indoor firing ranges, per year. These fine officers train at some of the approximately 16,000 to 18,000 firing ranges that exist in the United States today.
A Seattle Times Investigation revealed, “shooting firearms is the most common way to get lead poisoning outside of work,” including practice by law enforcement that train at indoor firing ranges.
During the period between 2002-2012, the CDC stated that a total of 2,056 persons employed in categories that included police protection had elevated BLLs (blood lead levels) reported to ABLES (Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance program managed by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)).
Current permissible airborne lead exposure limits of 50 µg/m3 and allowable BLL’s are considered to be outdated. Airborne exposure to lead is a singular entry point. This outdated rule does not take into consideration exposure through any route possible.
Investigations have found deficiencies by some indoor firing range facilities that include dry-sweeping of lead-containing dust to serious violations of under-performing ventilation, substandard housekeeping, and poor to no medical surveillance.
By law, indoor firing range owners are responsible for protecting employees (and clients) from lead-polluted workplaces by following rules and regulations on air quality, surface contamination, safety gear and various other standards.
A number of interventions exist to reduce lead exposure within a firing range facility. These include using lead-free bullets, improving ventilation, and using wet mopping or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuuming to clean.
One way to guide law enforcement firing ranges in protecting police officers from lead includes hiring a company such as MT2, who offer a wide variety of services to augment range safety enhancements and maintenance plans.
Over 200 law enforcement agencies have benefitted from MT2’s services. Lead hazards at a NYPD training range have been greatly reduced thanks to a BMP program for lead management and maintenance. This program alone benefits over 40,000 officers and recruits by protecting their health during training.
MT2 provides services under the BMP program for lead management such as sampling, analysis and monitoring of soil and groundwater conditions, removal and recycling of lead bullets and bullet fragments, and chemically converting potential leachable lead fines remaining in range soils utilizing MT2’s patented ECOBOND® technology.
ECOBOND® technology alleviates hazards that stem from high concentrations of lead and other metals in firing range soils. All technology achieves compliance with EPA and state regulatory agencies recommended firing range environmental Best Management Practices (BMPs).
MT2 has a firing range industry leader since 2000. Protect your clients and our great nation’s law enforcement officers. Contact Us for more information about our services.