Washington, DC — Indoor firing ranges are popular among law enforcement and recreational shooters because they offer protection from inclement weather conditions and can be operated around the clock under controlled environmental conditions.
However, many firing range facilities lack environmental and occupational controls to protect the health of shooters and range personnel from effects of airborne lead, noise, and other potential exposures.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 1 million local, state and federal law enforcement officers work in the United States, and are required to undergo regular firearms training.
Using lead bullets or lead-containing primers at indoor firing (shooting) ranges can expose workers to lead and result in unsafe levels of lead in their blood. Lead enters the body through inhalation or ingestion. Once in the bloodstream, lead can damage various organs and cause health problems.
The OSHA resources state that workers at indoor firing ranges may face exposure to lead or lead dust through numerous channels, including:
- Gunsmoke when lead bullets are used;
- Bullet impact at the target area;
- Handling spent cartridges;
- Dry sweeping and using vacuums not equipped with high-efficiency particulate air filters;
- Changing ventilation system filters and vacuum bags and other maintenance; AND
- Ingestion by handling food while lead dust is on hands or nearby.
NIOSH also has recommendations and steps for workers to protect themselves, including:
- Attending training;
- Follow safe work practices; and
- Participate in health-monitoring programs, among others.