Health officials warn of lead exposure at indoor shooting ranges

Warning about indoor shooting ranges
Updated: Oct. 30, 2017 at 8:31 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A warning from the Louisiana Department of Health about a sport that is growing in popularity. Officials say you could be at risk for lead exposure if you visit indoor shooting ranges.

"It's a popular sport. About 20 million Americans participate in it nationwide," said Dr. David Holcombe with the Louisiana Department of Health. "Because of the ammunition, it generates a fine dust that has lead in it, and to really avoid long term intoxication you have to have very good ventilation systems that actually drive the smoke away, and that is generally not the case."
The Health Department is concerned about shooting range employees, target and hobby shooters, members of shooting teams and law enforcement officers who practice at ranges.

"This isn't a one-time exposure. This is recurrent exposures," said Holcombe."Someone who uses these sites a lot can actually have a significant lead exposure."

We spoke with a local firearms instructor who tells us he's already taking precautions to protect himself.

"I'm at ranges a whole bunch so I periodically get myself tested for lead to see if my lead levels in my body are getting high. So far, I've been doing this for many years. I haven't had any problems. So,I'm going to get tested again in November," said firearms instructor David Newman.

Newman says he also teaches his students ways to avoid lead exposure.

"It's something that you should know about. It varies from range to range how much lead you are exposed to, because some ranges, the air flow isn't as good as others," said Newman.

And to help prevent lead exposure, health officials say a good ventilation system is key.

"Check out and make sure that where they go to shoot has an adequate ventilation system that actually draws the air away and to the outside," said Holcombe.

The Louisiana Department of Health also recommends washing your hands immediately after shooting, never eat, drink, or smoke inside a range, change your clothes and shoes before you leave, wash clothes and uniforms separately from your family's clothing, have your health care provider test your blood lead levels frequently and never place lead bullets in your mouth.

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