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indoor club non-toxic ammo requirement


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We're in the infancy of attempting to determine our lead exposure and consequential health-risk ... if any.

We have 2 non-handloaders, so far, with "elevated" levels ... and we're ok with continuing thru the rest of the season with that.

We're toying with the idea of our host-range making non-toxic ammo (probably TMJ) mandatory for all our matches ... and getting our levels checked again at the end of the season in an attempt to learn something more about it.

We would VERY MUCH appreciate input from other indoor clubs who also have seen "elevated" lead levels and what they've done ... even if nothing at all ... about it.

I did the obligatory search and didn't find anything relevant.

I don't even have a clue as to how many other indoor clubs there are? I expect it's not a lot. So, if you shoot at one, just to mention your city and, at the least, if this has been an issue for your club or not, would be helpful. Also, if you shoot in an outdoor club which has been forced to make non-toxic match ammo mandotory, we'd like to hear about that as well.

Also, if there are any Dr.s, if you know what a "risky" or "dangerous" lead-level is, we'd like to hear about that as well. It seems our Dr.s would just soon have us give up shooting entirely.

Again, we're in the very early stages of learning here ... we don't know anything yet. So, in an effort to avoid feeding the rumor-mill, we'd prefer our club, as of yet, remain anonymous. At least, until we can discuss facts.

Thank you.

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Guest Larry Cazes
in an effort to avoid feeding the rumor-mill, we'd prefer our club, as of yet, remain anonymous. At least, until we can discuss facts.

Not to cause any animosity here, but this is the same defensive attitude my wife and I got at the indoor club in San Jose that we used to belong to. This is NOT an unusual situation at an indoor range. The hazard needs to be discussed and all of the members need to be made aware of it. At our club, Nobody wanted to admit that there might be an issue nor to change the poor policies that caused us to be exposed to hazardous levels at our club. We shot an action pistol type event indoors twice a month and spent another 4-5 hours a week indoors practicing. After 10 months, our blood lead levels were found to be elevated beyond the acceptable level. Mine was 38 and my wife's was 24. I believe that 2 factors were dominant at our facility. The first was a poor ventilation system that severely needed updating. The second was the fact that we were required to clean up after ourselves which included sweeping the range with a wide cloth mop after using it. A HEPA vaccum was available but was not made accessible to all of the members. It is still only available to the monthly crew that empties the lead trap. We stopped shooting there completely and within 6 months our blood levels were in the noise. To my knowledge, None of these issues have been addressed to date....... :angry:

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Larry, sorry to hear about that ... that's simply not appropriate.

Rest assured, we ARE looking into the matter for our club.

Unfortunately, we really don't KNOW anything ... yet. We can guess 'til the sun burns out ... but that's all we'd be doing.

Our host range already forbids non-jacketed bullets and any food or drink (including bottled water) in the range ... and has signs clearly posted indicating same and that it is an OSHA issue. As well, NO ONE is allowed to use any kind of broom unless they are alone in the range and wearing a proper mask.

Before we declare that "the sky is falling", we appreciate that people have been shooting indoors, downrange, for years and that ... maybe ... there's something else we haven't considered.

If I honestly believed that anyone was at serious risk of lead-poisoning as a result of shooting in our indoor club, I'd be the first to let them know. I'll tell you one thing, based on what I've seen, if anyone handloads, they should get their lead checked monthly.

I am bothered that someone might think my motives aren't in our members' best interests. I suppose all I can say is, if none of our levels go down by the end of the season, there simply won't be an indoor club anymore. And, until I know better, I'm not gonna risk scaring anyone with information I can't quantify. At this point, I just can't accept the possibility that this is an undiscovered problem which does not yet have a minimally acceptable solution.

But, I appreciate your input. I presume you and your wife didn't handload? It might also be worth mentioning that you and your wife's levels were about 2-3 times higher than ours ... if that matters to ya. Anyhow, I do feel like I've learned a bit more here. "San Jose"? Kalifornia? Just out of curiosity, why is there a market for shooting indoors in Kalifornia?

Thank you.

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Guest Larry Cazes
But, I appreciate your input. I presume you and your wife didn't handload?

I do handload but I wear Nitrile gloves when handling cases straight from the cleaner, when loading, or when cleaning guns. We also only shoot jacketed rounds. None of these habits have changed since we stopped shooting indoors and they appear to be secondary minimal exposure risks based on my last test.

I am bothered that someone might think my motives aren't in our members' best interests

Although it may have come across that way, I did not intend for it to. Sorry if you took it that way, I'm just pretty sensitive about the subject. It is best, though, to err on the side of over informing people about the risk. The effects of lead poisoning are severe and mostly irreversible. Fact is, If you spend extended periods of time indoors shooting conventional ammo with lead primers and/or bullets with exposed lead at the base, and no ventilator, you will ingest some of it. Have you ever had a sweet taste at the back of your throat after shooting indoors? Thats a sign of ingesting lead.

why is there a market for shooting indoors in Kalifornia

I take full responsibility for the decision to shoot indoors which caused the hazard for us. It really was a matter of convenience, and ignorance of the risk. It was very convenient to have access to a range 24 hours a day. You are right, it really isnt neccessary out here since we can pretty much get away with shooting outdoors year round. Last week I chrono'ed my first batch of .38super loads using PMCs new Heavy Metal Free Non Toxic Primers and all indications are that performance with my choice of powder is actually improved.

Be Careful, Larry

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Thanks again Larry!

Ok, a couple updates in case anyone cares ...

Our two main guys running the club are intending to step-down in the very near future due to anticipation of growing lead-levels. Barring a small miracle, that would be the end of our club.

In speaking with the host-range personnel, going non-toxic is a possibility ... but we need to wait and see. One problem is that the host-range must require non-toxic for EVERYONE who would ever use that portion of the range ... including .22 bullseye shooters ... do they make non-toxic .22? While the public doesn't normally use that portion of the range, they sometimes do when it's busy. As such, they'd have to comply as well. Simply put, this isn't an easy or quick decision for them.

Also, I spoke with someone who, supposedly, worked for Federal for quite a few years who indicated that their limit for lead-levels was 40 and OSHA's was 50 and that anyone living downtown typically has a level of 20 ... just 'cause they live there. This would suggest that the levels we're seeing, as of yet, are nothing to be concerned with. I'm having a hard time just selling the non-toxic idea ... let alone that we really don't have anything to be concerned with at all. :blink: Anyhow, I'm not sure if that would "hold up in court". <_<

There's also an IDPA club which uses the same host-range. As of yet, apparently, this isn't a concern for them. However, most of their members are newbies to action-pistol altogether. And, supposedly, their prez will be getting his lead-level checked soon. Unless I'm splipping between dimensions, I'd expect this will be an issue for them as well.

Right now, we're fighting the clock. This may simply blow-up before we have even have a possible resolution.

Should any other indoor clubs ever read this, I'd suggest to you that, if you value your indoor shooting opportunities, you might consider nipping this in the bud asap.

Again, barring a small miracle, I'm afraid we may simply be too late. Still, any additional input would be greatly appreciated.

FWIW, I'm disappointed that this non-toxic proposal isn't a slam-dunk. We're talking about a health-risk here ... which, as of yet, appears to be genuine. And, if it costs the host-range no more, and costs the shooters no more (to shoot TMJ and lead-free primers), why NOT, at least, give it a try? :(

Thank you.

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Our host range already forbids non-jacketed bullets ...

Don't the primers have something to do with this issue as well, maybe even more so than bullet variety? I think I recall there's at least one ammo mftr now that has a line of non-toxic ammo, and part of it is achieved by a special primer?

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From what I've seen, any ammo packaged as "non-toxic" or "green" HAS lead-free (actually heavy-metal-free) primers (actually, there's normally all kinds of nasty stuff in 'em). As the only difference, as far as I know, between TMJ and FMJ is that the base is covered, again, from what I've seen, all TMJ ammo is packaged as "non-toxic" and, again, as such, has lead-free primers.


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I started a job at an indoor range and my lead level was 6, after 5 years of working there and shooting many indoor matches I started having memory trouble and rapid hair loss so I had it checked again. This time it was almost 40 which according to my doctor was within the danger zone. I was not only shooting lead bullets indoors but I was cleaning the range also. I think that is what caused my elivated level. Since I stopped working there it has dropped back down in the 20's but I still shoot indoors. I just switched to totaly jacketed bullets. My memory has not gotten any better and my hair loss will not come back. The Doctor says that only time can get it out of your system and the effects are perminate. So be careful and get checked every year. It is not a common test so you will have to request it, I had to. We had a very good ventilaton system and made sure it was alwasy on no matter how cold it got during the match. As far as I know I am the only member that had problems but I can not testify that anyone else was teated.

Good luck with your research and let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Rob Jessee

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If the range is not cleaned and then dedicated to lead free ammunition, lead exposure levels will not significantly decrease simply by changing to lead free ammunition. The concussion from shooting will shake lead from the facility and continue exposure.

I am not aquainted with the details of the cleaning process, but it is more than simply mopping and scrubbing. It may require steam cleaning or such, but it can be done.

Once cleaned, using lead free ammunition exclusively will see lead exposure essentially eliminated.


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Thanks much for the input gentlemen!

I think a couple things are coming clear:

1. there doesn't seem to be ANY kind of information disseminated to anyone on the various ways (primers, FMJ vs. TMJ, dust) shooters can be exposed to lead, and to what degree that typically affects 'em

2. despite OSHA, there doesn't seem to be any official standard of just what kind of lead levels can be comfortably tolerated ... and it IS a matter of level as I'm sure that ANYONE who shoots at all, indoors or not, has, at least, a level of 1

As it is, I suppose I will go with the OSHA numbers ... I think that's pretty conservative as, I believe, they're basically talkin' about someone who's exposed to those levels on a daily basis as is necessary for their work ... and I hope none of us has quite that much exposure.

Having been someone who was utterly clueless about 1. and 2., and now isn't so much, I find it disconcerting to have to learn about it in this manner. In other words, I would've very much appreciated someone, having come before me, to make all newbies, as I once was, aware of this sort of thing (to Larry's point).

Whether our club survives the near future or not ... and regardless of going non-toxic ... I think it's only right to let all our shooters know ... probably at every match as we do tend to get a lot of newbies throughout the season ... what we believe the risk is, and that they should get their lead levels checked at least every 3 mos.

The problem with this is I'm no authority on the subject. Maybe that's why no one's ever seemed to say anything before. Who is? But, I think it's safe to say, as we shoot bi-weekly, that getting it checked every 3 mos is better than not at all. Of course, if a Dr. sees a level of 11, is the Dr. gonna say "Oh sure, that's nothing, go ahead and shoot some more"? So, going with the OSHA numbers, I think I'll say that if someone's 20+, they should probably either start wearing a mask or stop shooting indoors for a couple mos and until they get it checked again and they're back down closer to 10. Along with that, I'll state that I believe that's a safe level based on the fact that OSHA says 40 is the limit for someone who's exposed to lead as part of their job.

At that point, we probably will lose shooters who will simply be scared off. And, if enough don't come back, that may be the end of our club anyway. But, I suppose that's the only way we can do it ... and sleep at night.

I guess I'm just a little p!ssed off 'cause I really don't think this is a new issue ... but I'm only just learning about it now. I guess I can't really blame anyone ... except maybe the ammo manufacturers for not making all target-ammo TMJ with lead-free primers (as it doesn't seem to cost much, if anything, more).

The club is Amored Fire in Blaine, MN ... for those who haven't figured that out yet. For those familiar with the club, you know what we've been thru. It's a new club (4th season?). And we've been struggling to keep it going despite our founder's death after the 1st season ... yes, some have suggested that it was due to lead ... no, I don't believe that for a second ... it was lung cancer ... his name was Steve Ellis ... I'm sure some of you have met him.

By all means, if someone has something intelligent to add, please do so. This discussion isn't necessarily over ... but, the time to say something is getting very close. And I'm just trying to figure out what that something should be. And, regardless, I'm perfectly willing to learn more about this.

Thank you.

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What I've recently learned is that the most common lead exposure is from ingestion and not inhalation. Washing your hands in cold water after being in a range, handling empty brass, loading ammo, etc, is the best preventative medicine. I don't want to minimize the inhalation problem, as I have been in some nasty ranges where you leave with black nostrils. The indoor range my PD used was closed for lead levels and poor air quality. The department's initial response was to mandate lead-free ammo. A call to OSHA enlighted me to thier requirements for air exchange. Range air quality (cubic feet per minute air flow at the firing point) is the same for any type of ammo. The department closed the range after leaning this. They are in the process of clean-up and renovation to the air exchangers.

I personally know of an officer that was assigned as an instructor to a shooting simulator system for a year. The simulator uses real guns with lasers in the barrel. A primer is fired to trigger the laser. Everyday he was exposed to primer smoke, maybe 30-40 primers a day, with little to no ventilation. At the end of the year his levels were sky high. The doctor put him on an herbal supplement that enhanced the bodies ability to purge itself of lead.

An educated shooter is a healthy shooter:

SHOOT ONLY IN WELL VENTILATED RANGES. IF THE AIR LOOKS SMOKEY, IT IS!! GET OUT. (In case you haven't seen a properly working vent system, they should remove the smoke from your vision before you can clear your gun)



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I am not a toxicologist, but generally speaking lead inside your body in very low levels can be tolerated with little or no symptoms. Higher levels can result in symptoms that are reversible if the levels drop. Other symptoms and changes in the human body are permanent, and some are serious, including nerve and kidney damage. Sensitivity to the amount of lead in a person's body is variable, so it is very hard to say what levels will "poison" you, and whether that same level will harm another person. Generally, the higher the level, the greater the risk of symptoms. Children are highly sensitive to lead, and the blood levels leading to treatment in the young are much lower than they are for adults.

As far as shooting indoors goes, good ventilation will minimize inhalation of vaporized lead from bullet bases and lead based priming compounds. Jacketed bullet bases and lead free primers eliminate the lead bearing smoke problem (at least for that shooter's gun). Comprehensive cleaning will reduce or eliminate exposure to lead from prior shooting that contaminates the area around the firing line.

Another risk is mainly downrange near the bullet traps - particulate lead from bullet spatter around the traps. Going down range to clean or handle props, either as a range employee or a member of an indoor action pistol club shooting or setting up stages, will get this on your clothes and shoes. You may not be eating or drinking on the range, and you aren't inhaling this lead, but, until you change at least your shoes (and perhaps your pants) you can track lead all over the place, including your car or home. Some of that lead may eventually get inside you.

I don't think that it's possible to completely eliminate lead exposure from a range without completely eliminating lead in the ammunition . You can very much reduce your exposure to this lead, though, by limiting how often you shoot indoors, and how often you go forward of the firing line.

I still shoot indoors, but only occasionally.

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I sure do appreciate all the good input! Hopefully, at some point, others may benefit from this discussion as well!

I understand about the ventilation thing ... I should point out that we typically do everything downrange from the public firing line though. As such, any ventilation/filtration system is 20yds+ away from us. For all intents and purposes, we don't have any ventilation/filtration.

However, having spoken with the host-range personnel, we will make every effort to set-up stages as close as we can to the public firing line. In fact, we just had a match yesterday ... and most of the stages were MUCH closer to the front ... probably could've been even closer yet. I think we're on the right track.

Presuming we're not benefitting 100% from the ventilation/filtration system, it sounds like non-toxic ammo WOULD help a great deal?

Again, I think it's a shame that ammunition manufacturers and indoor ranges don't do more about this of their own accord. With a clean range, and non-toxic ammo, I don't see why this should be a concern for ANYONE. :wacko:

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Well ... last I heard this whole lead concern was brought to the attention of the owner of the range who ... upon hearing of it ... apparently said "no more practical shooting".

That may or may not be the end of it.

As it is, some believe a level of 20 is perfectly normal. Others believe a level of 20 is time to see a Dr. And the "perfectly normal" group is pissed at the "Dr." group 'cause they've ... apparently ... screwed up our indoor opportunities.

Actually, it may be that the question was even asked at all ... that got us shut down. I'm afraid Larry may have been right.

Thanks to Guy for the blurb in the Front Sight I got today! B) Hopefully a lot of people read that!

At some point, the cigarette companies got sued ... successfully ... 'cause they knew what they were doing was bad for people ... and they kept on doin' it.

I'm convinced if ammo manufacturers were to simply replace ALL FMJ with TMJ and lead-free primers that there would be no increase in costs ... as such costs are often the result of units sold to pay for any "re-tooling".

And, I'm convinced any indoor range, upon becoming "clean" and "non-toxic" could actually SAVE a great deal of money with regards to ventilation, filtration, cleaning ... probably a bunch of other stuff I don't even know about. Ya, there's still lead in the trap ... but I'd bet even OSHA would give 'em quite a break considering everything else.

If I'm right ... then it really wouldn't matter if 20 is normal ... or dangerous ... 'cause it simply wouldn't be an issue anymore.

What do I know?

Between this, everyone being notified that, at least, our next match is cancelled, and Guy's article ... I'll presume everyone has received fair warning.

FWIW, thanks to everyone who provided input on this ... I may not know precisely what's what ... but I do feel like I know a lot more ... and maybe some other people do too.

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I will speak only from a medical point of view:

A blood level of 20 is not normal. It may not make you sick at all (see my comments above), but it isn't what is normal. Lead is not used in the human physiology. It is a substance that exists in our environment as a result of industry and human activities, and like any such substance, exposure can lead in incorporation of the substance into the body, with varying consequences.

A human in a lead free environment (preindustrial mankind) would have an undetectable level of lead in the blood (with current assay technology that is a level of less than 3). By that criterion, ANY level over three is not normal. But, living in an industrial society, we often find people, perfectly healthy people, with low levels of lead in their bodies.

Again, what is important is that the higher the level, the more likely the person is to have symptoms. The higher the level, the greater the person's recent exposure, and, given that greater exposure, the greater the chance that the level will get even higher and will cause more and possibly worse symptoms. A level of 20 (or, in children of 10) is often interpreted that the person has had more than average exposure, and is used by many MD's as a sort of marker that "here is a potential health problem in this person, one that might worsen, since it is caused by that person's unusual and perhaps (in the case of a shooter, usually definite) ongoing exposure to lead, and which should be monitored for symptoms, checked for sources of exposure, and, from a medical point of view, reduced by decreasing exposure, if possible, to lessen the chance of even higher and potentially illness inducing levels in the future". A level of 20 doesn't mean that you are sick, just that there is the chance of it, especially if the level rises.

That's why some docs will shrug off a level of 20 ("You shoot? Well, we'll watch your levels and see what happens"), others will be concerned ("You shoot? Well, gee, you need to be careful here. If you want to be sure of not having higher levels of lead and maybe getting sick, the best way is to eliminate your exposure, i.e., stop or modify how you do your shooting, but it's up to you), and others might be alarmed ("You shoot and you're anemic, your bones ache and your kidneys are messed up already, you should stop now because it's hurting you).

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Guest Larry Cazes
Well ... last I heard this whole lead concern was brought to the attention of the owner of the range who ... upon hearing of it ... apparently said "no more practical shooting".

Deuce, Great to hear that you guys were conscientious enough to educate the club on the possible hazard that existed, but truly sorry to hear that was the result :( . There might have been things that could have been done with the present range setup to minimize the exposure. In our case, the club was more inclined to keep the status quo instead of working to improve things. I don't think that we would have stayed, though, anyway. We decided that the health risk was not worth the benefit. Ultimately, my wife and I grew as shooters from this experience because the loss of this club forced us to go out and find other more mature and better organized clubs that shoot outdoors in our area and we really met a great bunch of people by joining 2 other local USPSA clubs which we now shoot with regularly. Does the group have any plans to explore options for an outdoor event?

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Already some good outdoor opportunities. We're in MN ... so it gets cold September - May. ;) The indoor club was actually started a few years ago to increase the opportunities during those months. If this holds, we'll be no worse off than we were a few years ago.

Also, thanks again Kevin!

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It almost sounds like I'm too late, but I'll throw my comments in based on some of my experiences. I'm constantly exposed to the indoor range environment during the day as an instructor for my dept. I also get exposure in the evenings when I go to my range, Shooters Paradise.

We have action shooting every two weeks, and I have quite a number of repeat customers. This being said, I've managed to keep my lead levels in the 15-20 numbers just by washing my hands, FACE, and blowing my nose after coming off the range EVERY TIME.

Before I even started working as a firearms instructor, my lead level was 26. The doctor encouraged me to limit my amount of shooting. Well, of course, that didn't happen. Instead I started a regiment of detox suppliments based on Apple Pectin. This is a natural herb that removes heavy metals from your system. Of course, there are a number of other pills to counteract this metal removal.

Here are the exact numbers: Feel free to copy it.

Apple Pectin - As directed on label

Chellated Calcium - 2000mg daily

Magnesium - 1000mg daily

Garlic (Kyolic) - 2 tablets 3 times daily w/ meals

Kelp or Alfalfa - As directed

L-Lysine + L-cysteine - 500mg daily on an empty stomach (not with milk)

Methylsulfonlmethane (MSM) - As directed on label

Vitamin C 5000-20,000mg daily in divided doses

Zinc - 80mg daily DO NOT exceed 100mg

I also take a few other good things, like a multi-vitamin and iron.

Take this for about two months and EXERCISE. You'll see an enormous difference.

As far as what to tell shooters, Wash your hands AND FACE, and blow your nose after every exposure. My lead levels didn't see any significant difference when we changed to cleanfire frangible ammo, but it did after I took the above herbs and vitamins with exercise for a couple of months.

Tell your customers to have one pair of range shoes, and to leave them on the porch or in the garage before going into the house. Have a change of clothes ready, and wash all range clothes separately.

Our ventalation system at my range is very good, but it doesn't do any good if the customers don't exercise due care.

Hope this helps


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