Focusing on cleaning procedures and adhering to regulations is important, but thinking ahead by adopting methods or designs while following procedures may serve to keep the range cleaner during the periods between professional indoor firing range lead remediation work. With the health risks of lead poisoning, all efforts to reduce any chance of an occurrence is well worth the effort. A general approach might work, or a narrow plan that identifies a few key areas may prove successful. For the most obvious reason, the starting point is the air.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) has issued guidelines for the flow of air and air quality for indoor ranges. Most notable are the two reasons they recommend for indoor ventilation:”1. to protect employees and shooters from the hazards of vaporized lead and powder. 2. to eliminate smoke so that shooters can see the target.”
It is the latter recommendation that gives insight to what an indoor firing range can look like during normal operations. Understanding the health risks attendant to breathing lead poisoned smoke underscores the vital importance of airflow. That is why the entire thrust of air ventilation systems center on, “[e]stablishing a clean personal breathing zone around the shooter … [and] .. is critical in any ventilation design,” according to NSSF recommendations.
Indoor facilities employ one of two different systems to keep employees and shooters safe. Re-circulating systems find the greatest use in cities. Exhausting only part of the air occurs in these systems and outside air comes in to continue the balance (flow). As air flows through the system, drawn toward the target area, it creates a negative pressure range down range. Exhaust fans, ducts and air temperature control units become necessary to ‘clean’ the re-circulated air.
Keeping the air flowing across the shooting line proves challenging. Designs often have walls with large windows for viewing shooters, including doors that open directly to the shooting area. The design only serves to disrupt the critical airflow, by breaking up the necessary air reservoir that forms directly behind the shooting area. Open the door and destabilization of the airflow occurs. The windows affect the temperature of the air, creating a challenge to air flow stabilization — hot air rises and cold air falls.
With these considerations in mind, policies, methods, and designs need implementing to safeguard the facility’s airflow. Increasing the number of ducts and filters is helpful, but design features need consideration. Building shooter booths or re-designing them will create prime conditions to facilitate airflow. Restricting the space in the booth causes the air to flow more quickly. As the rapidly moving air moves through the booth it cleans out the range faster, removing more contaminants as it heads down range.
Many ideas can prove helpful by keeping the firing ranges clean of harmful lead poisoning contaminants. Careful consideration of methods employed is necessary to achieve the best results. Filter types, fans, ducts and more need evaluating based on the facility’s use — contests, long guns versus pistols etc. Consideration of design changes deserve evaluating. Using smaller windows, or reducing the height of booths may prove helpful.
Indoor Firing Range Cleaning is Essential to Shooter’s Health
Any time the issue of guns and bullets comes up, politics quickly enters into the discussion. From that point on, the entire conversation pivots to gun control, dividing people into one camp or the other. Nothing in the conversation by either side ever addresses the damage to the shooter. In fact, as studies have shown, shooters put their health at risk, with the potential to damage their bodies, every time they pull the trigger.
Since discovering that lead poisoning could affect both users and employees of firing ranges, the number of studies has exploded on how and why this occurs. Following fast on the heels of researchers, a fury of rules and regulations by OSHA and EPA now exist. Safety is the driving intent behind the regulations, meant to provide for the well-being of users of firing ranges by imposing standards for the care, maintenance and clean-up of these facilities.
The most dangerous areas for any shooter or employee at a firing range concentrates in three places as reported by the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA): the shooting station, the area 15 feet from the shooting station, and the target area. These are the areas where pollutants that are toxic to human beings exist at the highest levels of concentration.
What happens in these areas emphasizes the danger guns possess to those who use them or work in firing ranges? According to NAFA’s above report, “Lead poisoning is caused by lead oxide dust which is generated from the friction of lead bullets ejecting from the barrels of the guns used in the range.” They further claim that although lead oxide is not the primary cause of lead poisoning, “[s]everal fumes, created by the firing process, are harmful when introduced through the respiratory system. Lead oxide is the white powdery substance that is oxidation of the lead itself and it is toxic by inhalation, absorption through the skin, or ingestion.”
Though the report derives from multiple studies done over many years, the emphasis of NAFA is on the air filtration systems designed to mitigate the harmful effects of the residual pollutants. They focus on the ‘ventilation patterns’, stressing attentive effort by the owners and operators of firing ranges to enhance the directed flow of air through the range.
Referred to as ‘fall out dust’, the poisonous dust and fumes concentrate heaviest 15 feet down from the shooter. By piping in air while creating a negative pressure zone down range, draws the air carrying the pollutants toward the target area and the filtering systems, allowing for the best and most effective method of protecting shooters and employees alike.
Systems vary for keeping air flowing through a firing range and even filter requirements change depending on whether the air supply comes 100% from the outside or there is a recycling and filtering system in use. Even the air types vary depending on the firing range’s location, requiring the proper types of filters to address the differences and the risks that ensue.
MT2 is the Leading Nationwide Professional Lead Reclamation & Maintenance Contractor for BOTH Indoor & Outdoor Firing Ranges and has served over 1,200 public and private firing ranges nationwide since 2000. MT2’s firing range services include complete range maintenance, improvements and lead remediation services.