Bullets and the swallowing thereof.


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Feanaro
December 22, 2005, 03:54 AM
A question that come up a little bit ago. If you, an average sized adult male, swallowed a lead wadcutter(say a .38 Special), could you get lead poisoning? How about an FMJ with the base exposed?

My initial thought is that the FMJ would not give you lead poisoning unless it stuck around for quite a while. I believe adults absorb 10%ish of ingested lead and ten percent of a bullet's base ain't that much. The wadcutter though, I have no clue on that. I figure someone on THR has the right answer. Or they will at least entertain sick, bored me with the wrong ones. ;)

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JohnKSa
December 22, 2005, 04:01 AM
Metallic lead is pretty inert.

Berek
December 22, 2005, 02:45 PM
A question that come up a little bit ago. If you, an average sized adult male, swallowed a lead wadcutter(say a .38 Special), could you get lead poisoning? How about an FMJ with the base exposed?

My initial thought is that the FMJ would not give you lead poisoning unless it stuck around for quite a while. I believe adults absorb 10%ish of ingested lead and ten percent of a bullet's base ain't that much. The wadcutter though, I have no clue on that. I figure someone on THR has the right answer. Or they will at least entertain sick, bored me with the wrong ones. ;)

If'n they're trying to remove themselves from the gene pool, injection of lead works faster.

If they do not pass the lead, they will absorb it over a long period that will eventually result in brain damage then death. I do not know how long it will take, but the average human should pass it before it becomes an issue. I still don't recommend it...

CleverName
December 22, 2005, 06:39 PM
Been watching the Crow?

g56
December 22, 2005, 06:48 PM
Lead isn't something to fool around with, my brother ate lead based paint when he was a toddler, it caused horrible brain damage. :(

Red Dragon
December 22, 2005, 06:57 PM
The lead in the bullet is a little too dense to be absorbed into the bloodstream via ingestion. You will pass the bullet long before any of it is absorbed.

Bruce333
December 22, 2005, 06:59 PM
If'n they're trying to remove themselves from the gene pool, injection of lead works faster.

If they do not pass the lead, they will absorb it over a long period that will eventually result in brain damage then death. I do not know how long it will take, but the average human should pass it before it becomes an issue. I still don't recommend it..."Reported time spans between a shooting and the first symptoms of lead poisoning range from two days to an amazing 40 years." http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/articles/other/lead_31/

This article is talking about being shot, but I would think if the bullet stayed in your digestive system it's affect would be the same. The reason lead shot isn't used for hunting birds is they eat the shot, it gets ground up in their gizzard and they die from lead poisoning.

But, yeah, I don't think it would stay in you very long....just don't ask me to experiment for you...

odysseus
December 22, 2005, 07:17 PM
Outside of chemical concerns, one should hope it passes and doesn't lodge somewhere. I hear intestinal surgery is not fun.

c_yeager
December 22, 2005, 08:22 PM
Even if it doesnt pass its unlikely that your body would absorb a significant amount of lead from the projectile. People have been walking around with bits of shrapnel and bullets stuck in their bodies for long periods of time without any lead-based effects. The bullet would likely pass fairly quickly anyhow.

Feanaro
December 22, 2005, 08:34 PM
So far my initial suspicions seem to have been confirmed, here and in what (very) little I can find elsewhere.

Been watching the Crow?

I wasn't, not a fan of that movie. I believe the person who originally asked the question was though.

Cosmoline
December 22, 2005, 08:43 PM
Lead poisoning *IS* a serious concern for folks who shoot a lot and cast their own bullets. There have been several threads here and on TFL from folks who were shocked to discover extremely high lead levels after testing. It's nothing to mess around with. That said, so long as the bullet was intact it shouldn't release very much lead into the system. But if it stays in the small intestines I could certainly see it becoming a problem. Unlike empty body cavity areas where sometimes the odd bullet get stuck after a fight, your digestive tract is designed to remove minerals from objects and inject them into your system. It's not the best place to leave dangerous heavy metals.

But realistically lead exposure is a long-term problem and the bigger danger comes from failure to clean the residue off fingers or failing to observe safety measures. YOu can always weigh the bullet after it passes and make sure it didn't lose too many grains :neener:

Preacherman
December 22, 2005, 09:08 PM
If it was a cast bullet, covered in bullet lube, I'd say the bullet lube might have some interesting intestinal effects also! :D

Lone_Gunman
December 22, 2005, 09:56 PM
Not an issue.

Bullets shot into people's bodies are not usually removed (despite what Doc does on Gunsmoke re-runs).

If you can live with a lead bullet in your body 50 yrs with no lead poisoning, I dont think 12 hrs in your GI tract is going to matter.

halfgone
December 22, 2005, 10:15 PM
well... you could always "wrap" the bullet in something. Take for instance, a balloon or condom, and then you could try to lower the level of acid in your body with tums, hoping that you would pass the bullet-with-balloon at your desired location without having lost much of either... I hear this is how some peoples like to sneak drugs around.

could be way off though.

FPrice
December 22, 2005, 10:23 PM
Q: Do you know what happens to little girls who eat bullets?

A: Their hair grows out in bangs.

JohnKSa
December 22, 2005, 10:51 PM
Lead poisoning *IS* a serious concern for folks who shoot a lot and cast their own bullets.That's primarily due to inhalation of lead vapor. Ingesting a chunk of metallic lead isn't terribly dangerous because it is fairly inert. It will pass through the digestive system without much absorption, IMO. However, swallowing a batch of shot or a piece of lead that is badly oxidized, or lead compounds (as in lead paint), would be quite a bit worse.

FWIW, there are some pretty corrosive compounds in the digestive tract, I would guess that it takes much less time for even metallic lead to break down or form compounds in the digestive tract than encapsulated in tissue after a shooting. I don't think it's really possible to compare the two effectively.

GRB
December 22, 2005, 11:23 PM
Metallic lead is pretty inert.Wow, you should tell this to the spirits of the British exploration team that was lost in the Arctic many years ago. I forget the name of the leader or their ship, but they were found some years back by some team from something like National Geographic. Some were buried and then later dug up and found to have mostly died from exposure and lead poisoning. If I recall correctly, they got caught in the ice, ship went down, but they off loaded most of the supplies. Seems the cans used to can their food were sealed with lead - I believe this was in Victorian times when the danger was known or suspected but scruples were low when money was to be made. When they opened the cans the lead went into the food, they ate it and some apparently died because of it. I seem to recall the show said some of their journals revealed crazy acts, like those of someone suffering from lead poisoning. You eat all the bullets you want, they are not for me though.

Lone_Gunman
December 22, 2005, 11:30 PM
I don't think anything in the GI tract is going to have time to dissolve or oxidize lead to any significant degree, assuming the object passes in the usual time.

If the bullet remains in the GI tract a day or two, I dont think it would be a problem.

If I had a patient come in tonight with a swallowed lead bullet, I would not attempt to retrieve. I would let it pass on its own, or stimulate passage with a laxative. Taking xrays to document it has passed would be a good idea, at least from a liablity standpoint.

It has been documented that waterfowl can die of lead poisoning from ingesting lead shot, but I think that requires a lot of shot to be ingested over a long period of time. Also, lead shot will remain in the gizzard of a duck a lot longer than a lead bullet will remain in a human stomach. I don't think a human swallowing a lead bullet once is going to be a problem. That said, I would not advise routinely swallowing bullets.

JohnKSa
December 22, 2005, 11:31 PM
When they opened the cans the lead went into the foodActually, the lead probably dissipated into the food by forming compounds during the time the can was closed. Also, if small bits of lead got into the food during the opening process, that would be bad. Eating lots of small bits of lead is going to result in more exposure than eating the same amount by weight that's all in one chunk.

I'm not recommending that people start eating lead, just pointing out that metallic lead isn't nearly the threat that lead vapor or lead compounds can be.

g56
December 23, 2005, 01:33 AM
The acids in the digestive tract are basically hydrochloric acid, I'm not sure exactly what effect hydrochloric acid would have on a lead bullet. Battery plates are made of lead and are in a weak solution of sulfuric acid. I believe hydrochloric acid is more corrosive than sulphuric acid, both have a ph of 1 which is pretty dangerous, but doesn't tell us exactly what degree of difference there might be.

If someone has some muriatic acid for their pool, you might try carefully placing a lead bullet in it for 24 hours to see what might happen. Muriatic acid is the "pretty" name for hydrochloric acid, tell someone to put hydrochloric acid in their pool to adjust the ph they would think you are crazy, but tell them muriatic acid and it's OK, the hitch is...they are the same thing! :eek:

Lone_Gunman
December 23, 2005, 09:18 AM
Muriatic Acid is a dilute hydrochloric acid solution, but even still Muriatic Acid is much more concentrated than what is found in the stomach..

Also, placing the bullet in the Muriatic Acid for 24 hrs would be much longer than it would stay inside the stomach of a person.

c_yeager
December 23, 2005, 10:59 AM
Wow, you should tell this to the spirits of the British exploration team that was lost in the Arctic many years ago. I forget the name of the leader or their ship, but they were found some years back by some team from something like National Geographic. Some were buried and then later dug up and found to have mostly died from exposure and lead poisoning. If I recall correctly, they got caught in the ice, ship went down, but they off loaded most of the supplies. Seems the cans used to can their food were sealed with lead - I believe this was in Victorian times when the danger was known or suspected but scruples were low when money was to be made. When they opened the cans the lead went into the food, they ate it and some apparently died because of it. I seem to recall the show said some of their journals revealed crazy acts, like those of someone suffering from lead poisoning. You eat all the bullets you want, they are not for me though.

My understanding of this situation was that they actually COOKED the food while it was in the lead sealed cans. The heat vaporized lead into the food that they were eating.

swan hunter
December 23, 2005, 11:11 AM
Might cause serious damage to the turlet upon exit!!!;)

Drizzt
December 23, 2005, 01:07 PM
kinda reminded me of this cartoon.....

bruss01
December 23, 2005, 01:26 PM
Absorbtion of lead from an embedded bullet should be pretty low. Blood is not very acidic, and in order to be absorbed, it must first disolve. However, stomach acid is strong enough to dissolve some lead. The way to test this would be to get a jar, add distilled water and muriatic acid in a porportion that approximates the acidity of the human stomach, put in a tropical fish tank heater set at 98 degrees, then drop a bullet into it and let it set for 2 hours. Weigh the bullet on a tenth-of-gram accurate scale both before and after, making sure the bullet is rinsed with distilled water and allowed to completely dry after. The before-and-after weight difference is the amount of lead you would expect someone to absorb.

Temperature and time are important. A human stomach usually passes the food in it to the duodenum after about 2 hours for further processing. Here it is squirted with other digestive fluids that essentially neutralize the stomach acid. The rate of any chemical reaction doubles for each degree C of temperature rise, which is why temp is so crucial. Sorry if that sounds like too much work but just how curious are you? :D

Lone_Gunman
December 23, 2005, 03:48 PM
However, stomach acid is strong enough to dissolve some lead.

Hydrochloric acid does not dissolve lead. At high concentrations it can react with it, but I beleive it forms lead chloride, which is insoluble and unlikely to be absorbed.

I don't see a reason to test this though by swallowing a bullet!

halfgone
December 23, 2005, 03:58 PM
Although I despise them, I would like to throw out a +1 to Drizzt for that awesome cartoon. I'm on my way to becoming an academic and I thought that was hysterical.

atomchaser
December 23, 2005, 05:14 PM
If the lead were in finely devided particles you could get 10-15% absorbtion into the blood from the digestive system depending on a number of factors (diet, etc). A lead slug would probably be a lot less due to surface area considerations.

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