I didn’t realize until recently what a hazard lead is to a shooter’s health. The threat is real. Schatz produced a seminal brief on the cacophony of bad stuff your body is exposed to on the range (deadly stuff from arsenic to mercury). It’s definitely worth checking out. I’m going to limit myself to lead for the moment and a product made by Hygenall called “LeadOff”. If you shoot you need to have this in your range bag.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) lists nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss, anemia, excess lethargy or hyperactivity, headaches, abdominal pain, and kidney problems to lead poisoning but the biggest one I’m concerned about is damage to the brain and nervous system. An insidious quality to lead poisoning is it acts similarly to persistent chemical warfare agents. No, it’s not going to make you seize up and convulsing but lead sticks to everything. Your hands, clothes, shoes and equipment are contaminated and unless removed contaminates other things like your food, water, car and home.
The federal standard is a worker’s blood lead level (BLL) of 50 micrograms of lead per deciliter (μg/dL) requires the employer to remove the worker from the environment until that level recedes. That’s misleading, a BLL between 10 and 25 µg/dL indicates lead is building up in your body. The typical level for U.S. adults is less than 10 µg/dL (mean = 3 µg/dL). Interestingly, pregnant women are recommended to have less than 10 µg/dL due to the risk to their unborn’s development. That’s not a lot.
Hygenal’s “LeadOff” removes 99% of the lead as well as other contaminates when used after shooting. The product comes in a handy soap form, but I prefer the wipes which are easy to carry in a range bag. The way it works is that lead oxide has a positive charge, when you wash with typical soap and water lead oxide largely stays because it sticks to your skin. Soap removes the oil on your skin not the lead. One of LeadOff’s ingredients are isostearamidopropyl morpholine lactate (ISML) molecules. They are negatively charged and attract the positive lead oxide molecule, pulling them off your skin.
I use LeadOff’s 45 wipe canister during range classes and it’s been well received especially when one does a little educating about the potential of lead poisoning. I also carry individual wipes in my range bag. I recently attended a Rangemaster Instructor’s course given by Tom Givens. It was interesting that after a shooting session I spotted Tom using LeadOff to clean his hands. The spray bottle is an excellent little thing to have in your bathroom in the house if your forgot to clean up at the range.
I’m still working on developing a strong habit of personal hygiene after a shooting session. This article is remotivating my effort. It’s a challenge to break from the two decades plus of poor habits stemming from military service. You may have similar issues if you are a long-time shooter. ALWAYS wash your hands after a shooting session with deleading soap and if you were laying on the ground you probably want to change clothes. Carpets are magnets for lead build up. Keep this in mind when leaving the range and climbing into your car. Next to personal hygiene, selecting clean ranges will help minimize your lead exposure. If you smell like the range after you’ve left it, it’s likely you are taking a bunch of bad stuff with you after your shooting session.
LeadOff is must for your range back and after shooting maintenance. Not only will it reduce your exposure to lead, more importantly it’ll reduce your family’s exposure.
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