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From the Anchorage Daily News

Lead levels halts shooting program
HAZARD: High amounts of toxin are discovered in school rifle team.


By Tim Mowry
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

(Published: November 15, 2002)
Fairbanks -- Youth shooting programs at the Tanana Valley Sportsmen's Association shooting range have been halted after 10 members of the Lathrop High School rifle team were found to have high concentrations of lead in their blood.

Lead levels in the team members ranged from 17 to 37 micrograms per deciliter. The normal level is less than 10 micrograms in children.

"These levels are very high," said state epidemiologist John Middaugh with the Division of Public Health. "They're way beyond what we expected to see."

While the levels are not dangerous at this point, Middaugh recommended that junior shooting programs at the range be suspended. He advised the club to conduct a lead exposure risk assessment, which will include an analysis of the range's ventilation system, air circulation patterns and cleaning methods.

Had the shooters continued to use the range, they would have risked lead poisoning, Middaugh said.

"We caught this before the levels got to the point where they became dangerous," he said.

Lead is a toxin that affects the brain, nervous system, digestive system, kidneys and the body's ability to make blood. An elevated blood lead level indicates lead is building up in the body faster than it can be removed. Lead poisoning is especially dangerous in children.

Indoor shooting ranges are "a well-known potential source of lead exposure," Middaugh said. Slugs hitting the backstop create airborne lead dust, as do exploding primers containing lead styphnate and the friction from lead bullets against the gun barrel.

The dust can be inhaled or ingested. Improper range-cleaning methods and poor range ventilation can exacerbate the problem. It wasn't until the School District requested testing for local rifle teams a month ago that the problem was discovered.

The high lead levels found in the Lathrop shooters was a wake-up call but not exactly a shock, said Max Lyon, president of the Tanana Valley Sportsmen's Association.

"It's always had a ventilation problem, but we never knew the extent of the lead problem," Lyon said.

The club has called the shooting range a lead hazard area and has hired Nortech Environmental & Engineering Consultants of Fairbanks to inspect the range.

The range is swept after each shoot and mopped "every couple weeks or so," Lyon said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game approached the School District to ask permission to test shooters on the Randy Smith Middle School and West Valley High rifle teams, which shoot at the Fish and Game indoor shooting range on College Road.

The tests were done after the state reported in a July bulletin that the chief range officer at the Tok High School rifle range had symptoms of lead poisoning. Shooters on the Tok team were tested and found to have high lead levels in their blood, most likely caused by lead dust being trapped in carpet that had been installed in the shooting area and from a poor ventilation system.

"Tok had problems, and we wanted to make sure we didn't," said Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms.

In response, the School District encouraged all local rifle teams to be tested, said Superintendent Ann Shortt. The Monroe Catholic and North Pole rifle teams also shoot at the Tanana Valley Sportsmen's Association range. While Lathrop shooters tested for elevated lead levels, members of the West Valley team showed normal lead levels -- 1 to 5 micrograms. The School District instructed teams to stop shooting at the range.

"Once we get any information there's a potential danger to a student, we take that kind of action," Shortt said.

The range is in the basement of the club's log clubhouse. It was built in the early 1950s by club members who lifted the existing cabin off its foundation and dug out an area and hand-poured a concrete basement.

A ventilation system was installed in 1982 for the Arctic Winter Games, but it has leaks and is inefficient at best, club trustee Bruce Campbell said.

"It's an issue we've worked on for years," Campbell said of possible lead contamination.

The sportsmen's association is considering building a new range, but the nonprofit volunteer group is strapped for cash to do so, Lyon said.

The group has had to halt its junior shooting safety and education programs because of the lead contamination.

"We're definitely going to correct the problem and continue on with our junior programs," Lyon said.

http://adn.com/alaska/story/2139194p-2226293c.html
 

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It's a real problem. The issue will be whether the shooting community is strong enough to fix it.
 

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alyeska 338: Our club is inthe same pickle. Initial pricing indicates about $100,000 to install a proper ventilation system. We found we couldn't just blow it outdoors and be legal. A "scrubber" has to be included which removes the lead from the air being discharged. Now how this is eupposed to differ from an outdoor range where no "scrubbing" is involved hasn't been adequately explained to us. A gut feeling is that federal regulators have gone overboard again either through intent or oversight. It's basically caused the cessation of our winter 22 and pistol shooting for adult and junior members. :mad:
 

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Hi, Stocker:
There's a big question about the legality of the Canadian range regulations. If you can send me your email address via a personal message, I can send you Dave Tomlinson's detailed interpretation of the law. It's too tricky to send it though Beartooth's email.

We didn't have to install a scrubber in our indoor range.

Bye
Jack
 

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Here in Springfield IL area we have a fairly new indoor range. It's one of two local ranges. A couple years ago when it first opened I visited. I noticed that the ventilation didn't work right.
Later when I was shooting some lead bullet reloads I found that their system is messed up. When the fans are on, they draw the air back towards the shooter, causing you to be in the path of the smoke and all the other particulates.
I have come home with severe headaches and sinus problems several times.
The owner told me that the contractors made some mistakes when they put in the ducting.
I hate to say this, but who should I contact to get something done about this?
I don't want to cause him trouble, but this is a health hazard and should be fixed.
 

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I have some personal experience with Canadian Indoor Range Regulations. They do seem to be a bit lax in terms of environmental standards. At least they were 16-17 years ago when I was working/shooting in an indoor range.

Venting was direct to the outdoors, although there may have been a filter required. Intake air was heated in winter (when the heaters worked!) which helped to keep the air quality pretty good. Still, a couple of us who spent an inordinate period of time on the range (those of us who were employee/shooters) developed some pretty nasty lead poisoning symptoms; primarily headaches and short tempers.

The building was originally part of a furrier's warehouse and they still had a storage area. The funny thing is that the heavy duty rifle range was separated from the ladies bathroom in the furrier's shop by only a cinderblock wall. To make matters worse, the exhaust vent ran right overtop the throne, carrying and perhaps even amplifying the noise from the 80'x8' range. I am told that as least one lady was so startled by the sudden, unexpected and extremely loud noise that she jumped right out of the bathroom with her pants around her ankles!
 

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The privately owned indoor range here in Richmond, Va. is well designed. The heat source in radiant behind the shooting line and the air flow is from the shooter to the back stop. The only critisism I have is the management does not clean the walls, floors, etc. between the shooter and the back stop as often as they should.
The old police academy range had an interesting setup with a thick plastic curtain behind the targets and ahead of the backstop. There were fans above and behind the backstop. This seemed to be a very efficient manner of controlling lead dust from the bullet impacts.
Jim
 

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Are there any types of primers that contain no lead? If so, then the lead levels in the air can be controlled by the trap. I have seen some types of bullet traps that trap using water, and they are not expensive. Even my crude sand traps will emit no lead when using jacketed bullets.

Once we get the lead out, so to speak, ventilation only needs to deal with smokeless powder, and that is much easier.
 

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J Miller,
Sounds like you've already talked to the owner, but maybe he didn't realize the depth of your concern. I would talk to him again, and see if you can help him remediate the problem. I would be very hesitant in trying to force him to do anything, after all it sounds like you have an alternative to shoot at another range nearby. Competition with another range is a good incentive for him to get these problems fixed. If something can't be worked out with the contractor and this range has a large enough member base, maybe you could organize a "pass the hat" contribution drive to get this taken care of.

If you have a shooting club or membership in a local chapter of some shooting organization, maybe something could be brought up there to help this individual get these problems fixed. This would also inform other shooters in the area of the defective ventilation system.

I wouldn't try to force the owner to get this fixed, nor would I contact an outside agency about the problem right now. First talk to the owner and see if he's interested at all in getting it fixed and if so, what can you and other members (or other shooters) do to help. If he's not, he may not realize the health threat, maybe printout the report about the Alaska shooting range and show that to him. You may want to talk to other shooters there and see if they are interested in having this worked out.

Bottom line is, he is providing shooters a service and he has competition. Try to help him come around to fixing it, if not, take your business elsewhere while informing the other shooters of the potential risks.
 

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alyeska338,
Your right about not bringing in outsiders to this issue. I have briefly talked to him a year or so ago when I first started going there. But the corolation between the ventalation and my headaches and sinus inflamation didn't dawn on me till I read your post.
I will be be going back to the range this week to do some testing on gun repairs and then I will take a much better look at what is going on.
After that I will decide on how to aproach the owner.

As for using the other range, I try to avoid it. Even with the so-so ventalation, the newer range is much better than the other one.
Better light, better target carriers, better every thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
J,
I don't believe it's worth the health risk to spend any real amount of time at the new range if these issues aren't addressed. Once your health starts going, it's hard to get back. Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...

Take care and be careful.
 

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alyeska338,

Once your health starts going, it's hard to get back. Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...
Boy did you say a mouthfull there. And it goes for everything in life, not just indoor ranges.

J
 

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Loader,
I believe there are lead-free primers available. Winchester markets lead-free rounds that are intended for indoor ranges. I don't believe they are truly lead free, as the bullets are likely a true FMJ which encapsulates the lead, but I think they use a lead free primer. I'm not sure if these are generally available, but you could look in to it if interested.
 

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"Bad Joke Friday" Dan (moderator emeritus)
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The indoor shooting range I attend five days a week here in Florida doesn't have very good ventilation as evidenced by the both the taste in my mouth and that my nose is black after each session. Since a fog of smoke comes back at me after each shot, I've assumed it was powder residue and didn't give any thought to lead contents, particularly since I'd never read of indoor range health problems. Several of the shooters have started wearing face masks and it appears this option may be necessary. I hate to admit it, but I "assumed" that since I'd not seen any articles about the problem or heard of health problems of personnel with years of indoor range shooting that this wasn't a risk.....but common sense should have told me.

Sincere thanks to Alyeska338 for the heads-up.

Dan
 

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If you're in the DC area and want to see the "range of the future", the NRA headquarters out rt66 in Virginia is open to members. They have a waterfall backstop and lots of air moving. A very nice facility.
 
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