Blood Lead Levels Rising


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357mag357
April 2, 2010, 07:59 AM
I just received the results from my yearly physical. Lead levels increased from 5 to 8 in one year. I am not surprised but my doctor wants me to stop my “Lead Hobby” as he calls it. I will give you some background of my hobby. I shoot about 5000 reloaded rounds per year. At least half of those rounds are lead. I do all of my reloading. I do cast my own lead bullets and ingots but have not done that for at least 4 months. I will be honest, I have not been wearing any latex gloves or a mask when reloading. I also have been cleaning dirty cases with a tumbler indoors. Cleaning the cases indoors may have happened 6 times in the last 3 months. I also have been shooting regularly since 2001. I know a lead level of 8 is not high but it does make me concerned. The first thing I did was move the tumbler in the shed and cleaned the area of any used media. When I reload I wear latex gloves and try to wear a mask. I also started taking 500mg of Vitamin C daily. I read that someone on this site reduced his lead levels by taking it. The doctor wants me back in six month to have it recheck. Stopping my Lead Hobby is not going to happen but I can at least do it safer. I was thinking of having my wife’s levels checked to see if it has traveled from the basement to other parts of the house. I don’t always change my clothes after shooting. Any thoughts?

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Duckdog
April 2, 2010, 09:12 AM
Good God! This could be me! My levels were pretty low, but what I have determined, for what it's worth, is that it is from the dust and from using a torch to speed up the melting of the lead. My doc's dad was a caster until he croaked off, and that's what we determined raised lead levels. His dad didn't die from lead, but he was concerned as well. By the time I actually cas bullets in the house, the lead I use has all of the doss out of it, so it's pretty clean.

My uneducated guess is that if you were to keep away from the dust, shoot outside, and don't use a torch, the levels wil decrease...maybe.

jcwit
April 2, 2010, 09:14 AM
Do you shoot indoors?

DickM
April 2, 2010, 09:17 AM
Do you shoot indoors? Most indoor ranges have terrible ventilation. My serum lead was up to 30.8 mcg/dl before I discovered the problem and started wearing a respirator while shooting indoors - now I'm down into a near-normal range.

It's not a bad idea to wear gloves while handling lead, but absorption of elemental lead through the skin is minimal. A larger problem is lead on the hands that's ingested from eating or smoking without proper hand-washing after working with lead. I haven't been able to find much data on absorption of lead from gun cleaning activities, but I've started wearing gloves while doing that as a precaution.

The major route of exposure for most shooters is via inhalation. You should be wearing a "real" half-face respirator when working with lead or shooting indoors, not one of those flimsy masks, and your respirator should be fitted with the pink P100 pancake filters. It's also important to ensure that the respirator fits you properly and doesn't leak. If you have a beard or large mustache fitting can be particularly difficult.

As always, there will be folks who will come along shortly to inform us that there's no risk associated with lead and it's all some sort of communist plot to take away our guns. They may have a point of sorts - they're probably more at risk from the tin-foil hats they've been wearing than they could ever possibly from lead exposure. They'll remind us that they've been exposed to lead for [insert large number here] years and it hasn't bothered them. I know plenty of people who've smoked cigarettes for many years and feel fine, at least for now, but that doesn't mean it isn't bad for you.

Oro
April 2, 2010, 09:36 AM
Do you shoot indoors?

Bingo. It's the shooting that causes the problem, not necessarily the handling/loading. When shooting, the gas expansion "ablates" the base of the bullet - fancy term for scouring it and creating small atomized particles you inhale.

I have had friends/acquaintances/patients who have had acute lead toxicity - but it's always related to shooting and breathing, not loading and handling (at least on a recreational level and not full-time). The skin is very good at keeping out lead and other heavy poisons. The lungs, well, they are designed to transport aerosolized stuff into the blood. Think about it. They (because you have two of them, though not identical) are designed to take things into the blood.

A good way to circumvent this is to load with copper gas checks. They are normally only associated with high velocity rounds to prevent leading in the barrels. But they will also prevent the gas ablation of the base of lead bullets and reduce the aerosolized lead that causes the problems. Slightly more expensive than loading pure lead, but still vastly cheaper than plated or FMJ bullets.

David Wile
April 2, 2010, 09:39 AM
Hey 357mag357,

I have been reloading and casting bullets over 50 years, and from 1984 to 2005 I had my own indoor shooting range in my basement. My work also required me to have my blood tested annually for lead levels along with a number of other toxic exposures in the work area. At no time during my working years did my blood testing show any abnormality in any of the toxicity levels. During this time I also frequently used gasolene with my bare hands as a solvent to wash and degrease different parts as well as lube from my cartridge cases.

While I have never had any of my tests show that I had high exposures to any toxic substances, I do know some folks who have had much smaller exposures, yet they had tests that raised red flags. I personally know folks who have some pretty bad experiences when the skin on their hands are just minimally exposed to gasolene.

I kind of chalk this up to individual differences. Different folks have different tolerances to different substances. In your case, it would appear that you are very sensitive to lead exposure, and I would not be surprised that you many find you are also sensitive to other common toxic substances such as gasolene. I would also suggest you be tested for sensitivity to a broad spectrum of common toxic substances to which most people are frequently exposed.

If I were you, I would immediately give up casting bullets, and I would do all my reloading with latex or other throw away gloves that keep you from contacting lead. I would not clean my rifles and pistols without the use of such gloves. Once you have changed your personal practices to reduce your exposure to lead for six months, I would then check the lead levels at that time to see what they indicate. I can only assume that you are not being exposed to lead metal fumes in some other way as your work or some other part of your environment.

I am sorry you are having this problem, and I hope it is one you can control with proper protective equipment and work practices. Let us know how things go for you.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile

DickM
April 2, 2010, 09:43 AM
When shooting, the gas expansion "ablates" the base of the bullet - fancy term for scouring it and creating small atomized particles you inhale.

This. There's likely some additional contribution from "splash" when the bullet hits the backstop. Also, priming compound is lead styphnate and there are those who claim that it's actually the primary source of airborne lead in indoor ranges. I don't have any data one way or the other on that, but I'm sure it's a factor.

bullseye308
April 2, 2010, 10:52 AM
Also, priming compound is lead styphnate

I think that is pretty much done with unless you have old stock primers being used.

Gas checks may help, but you will probably be best served by following the advice at the top of this section here: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=307170 There is lots of good info and lots of myths are dispelled there. Also cast bullets site has a big section on lead safety you might wanna look at. With proper precautions it can be as safe as anything else.

DickM
April 2, 2010, 12:05 PM
I think that is pretty much done with unless you have old stock primers being used.

I'm not sure. Certainly, manufacturers are moving toward non-toxic priming compounds, and that's a good thing, but it's not clear how widespread their use is currently. I poked around a bit looking at the MSDSs available on the CCI website for both primers and loaded ammunition and they list both types of primers (with/without lead), the non-lead ones having proprietary trade names which don't appear on any of the dozen or so bricks of CCI primers I have, some of which were purchased fairly recently. Also, many of the MSDSs for loaded ammunition indicate they still use lead priming. Maybe in another few years we'll be able to assume that the lead is out of current lots of primers, but I don't think we can do so just yet.

MissouriBullet
April 2, 2010, 12:17 PM
I just received the results from my yearly physical. Lead levels increased from 5 to 8 in one year. I am not surprised but my doctor wants me to stop my “Lead Hobby” as he calls it. I will give you some background of my hobby. I shoot about 5000 reloaded rounds per year. At least half of those rounds are lead. I do all of my reloading. I do cast my own lead bullets and ingots but have not done that for at least 4 months. I will be honest, I have not been wearing any latex gloves or a mask when reloading. I also have been cleaning dirty cases with a tumbler indoors. Cleaning the cases indoors may have happened 6 times in the last 3 months. I also have been shooting regularly since 2001. I know a lead level of 8 is not high but it does make me concerned. The first thing I did was move the tumbler in the shed and cleaned the area of any used media. When I reload I wear latex gloves and try to wear a mask. I also started taking 500mg of Vitamin C daily. I read that someone on this site reduced his lead levels by taking it. The doctor wants me back in six month to have it recheck. Stopping my Lead Hobby is not going to happen but I can at least do it safer. I was thinking of having my wife’s levels checked to see if it has traveled from the basement to other parts of the house. I don’t always change my clothes after shooting. Any thoughts?
Last time I had the heavy metal blood test and the results came back, the doctor made an offer per pound of blood :-)

mcdonl
April 2, 2010, 12:34 PM
MB... will I get a good alloy if I use some of your blood mixed with WW's? :)

357mag357
April 2, 2010, 12:57 PM
All of my shooting is done at an outdoor range. During the hot summer month when there is no wind I set up a fan to keep the smoke away from me. All of the lead round are kept below 1000fps. Thanks for a the advice.

MB, So what was your lead level?

snuffy
April 2, 2010, 12:58 PM
Also, priming compound is lead styphnate
I think that is pretty much done with unless you have old stock primers being used.

Lead styphonate is used in ALL primers available to reloaders. It will be for some time to come. The ONLY lead-free primers are in the NT,(non-toxic), shells made by some of the ammunition loading companies for use in training in closed areas, like shooting inside a mock-up of an urban house.

Lead exposure from handling lead bullets,(through the skin), is almost non-existent. Dust? What dust? If you're purposely grinding on lead ingots or bullets, you may generate some dust. That would instantly sink to the floor, getting it airborne would be difficult. Even ingesting metallic lead won't result in you absorbing that much. It's the lead salts, lead styphonate is one of them, that are easily absorbed by the body.

I've been casting lead bullets AND shooting them for over 40 years. I cast indoors with little or no ventilation. Smelting,(making usable ingots out of scrap lead), is done outside because of the smoke generated and the huge amount of heat required. My lead levels are checked once a year by the VA when getting my panel done. The highest it's ever been is 7.0, which was last year. My doctor is not one bit concerned about that, since 20.0 is where they get worried.

If it makes you feel better, then latex or nitril gloves should be worn. You won't accomplish a thing by wearing a filter mask while reloading. One place where the mask would be a good idea is when unloading the tumbler. I bought a simple white filter mask to use the next time I unload my tumbler, it should help.

ants
April 2, 2010, 02:17 PM
I know your doctor immediately targeted your "lead hobby". But the vast, vast majority of lead in the American environment is not bullet lead.

Take the normal precautions while reloading and shooting. But don't ignore the rest of your activities and environments. Work, home, kitchen, restaurant, recreation, car, and everywhere else. I know it was good advice to examine your reloading, but your doctor may be off the mark when targeting your hobby if there are other sources of contaminant in your environment.

Alabama2010
April 2, 2010, 02:41 PM
If one of my patient's had a lead level under 10 and they were asymptomatic, it wouldn't cause me any concern. I'd just ensure that they're using proper saftey techniques (eg., not melting lead or changing tumbler media in poorly ventilated rooms). Having gone from 5 to 8 in a year I'd play it safe by re-checking in 6 months, but I wouldn't tell any patient to stop reloading just because they had a BLL of 8 on a routine lab.

jcwit
April 2, 2010, 03:06 PM
Although you're a shooter, don't forget the rest of the environment around you.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Yes, one bad potential problem is that fancy imprinted coffee mug, that came straight from china.


Primers are the main problem, as has been said, lead dust?, ya right that light weight lead dust coming back at you even from a short 50' indoor pistol range, give me a break. Also keep your car windows rolled up as I understand in California they have a real problem with ground up dust from wheel weights being inhaled.

bullseye308
April 2, 2010, 03:18 PM
Originally Posted by bullseye308
Quote:
Also, priming compound is lead styphnate

I think that is pretty much done with unless you have old stock primers being used.

Originally Posted by snuffy
Quote:
Lead styphonate is used in ALL primers available to reloaders. It will be for some time to come. The ONLY lead-free primers are in the NT

And that is why you verify any advice given on the internet. I was mistaken and was thinking I was thinking of something else. I really did know that & have no idea what I was thinking of earlier. :banghead:
Sorry. Trust, but verify.

DickM
April 2, 2010, 04:37 PM
lead dust?, ya right that light weight lead dust coming back at you even from a short 50' indoor pistol range, give me a break.

I know it's fun to scoff at the concept of particulate lead floating around in air, but finely divided particles don't exactly behave like fishing sinkers. When the particles are small enough it's entirely possible for them to be moved around indefinitely by even modest air currents.

The settling velocity of small particles, i.e., particles with small Reynold's numbers, is typically calculated using Stoke's Law (you can Google the formula easily enough). By inserting typical values for the acceleration of gravity, density of lead and air, and the viscosity of air, (and assuming I didn't mess up my unit conversions), the formula shows that lead particles of, for example, 10 microns (a size that's easily inhaled and tends to remain in the lung) can be kept aloft by currents of only 0.03 m/s (an inch per second or so).

I wouldn't claim that finely divided lead from bullets hitting the backstop is the primary exposure route for lead in indoor ranges, but I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it out-of-hand either.

MissouriBullet
April 2, 2010, 04:42 PM
All of my shooting is done at an outdoor range. During the hot summer month when there is no wind I set up a fan to keep the smoke away from me. All of the lead round are kept below 1000fps. Thanks for a the advice.

MB, So what was your lead level?
Baseline in fall of '06 before going into the business - 17. So that's where it started. 6 months later, 23. 6 months later, 32, got scared. 6 months later, 26. Now at 25 and stable there. I'm told that the guys in the white chemical suits show up when it hits 40.

jcwit
April 2, 2010, 06:14 PM
The settling velocity of small particles, i.e., particles with small Reynold's numbers, is typically calculated using Stoke's Law (you can Google the formula easily enough). By inserting typical values for the acceleration of gravity, density of lead and air, and the viscosity of air, (and assuming I didn't mess up my unit conversions), the formula shows that lead particles of, for example, 10 microns (a size that's easily inhaled and tends to remain in the lung) can be kept aloft by currents of only 0.03 m/s (an inch per second or so).


Using that formula it would take 10 minutes for splash lead to reach where the shooting stalls are in a 50 foot range. By then more than likely it would have landed on the floor.

Primers is where its at.

Indoor rangers need good air exchange, simple as that.

357mag357
April 2, 2010, 08:46 PM
Do different primer companies like CCI, Winchester, or Wolf use more lead in their primers than others? I have been using a lot of Wolf Primers with most of my reloads.

Lloyd Smale
April 3, 2010, 06:56 AM
ive been treated twice for lead poisoning using chelting theropy. My lead level was as high as 80 and was 12 last time i had it checked. My doctor told me in an adult it isnt a consern unless its over 20. My doctor also recomended i quit casting and shooting but id rather be dead!

sig220mw
April 3, 2010, 12:32 PM
Since air borne particles seem to be the biggest part of this problem, would a pollen/dust mask be a solution?

DickM
April 3, 2010, 04:23 PM
Since air borne particles seem to be the biggest part of this problem, would a pollen/dust mask be a solution?

Yes, but those flimsy white dust masks won't do nearly as good a job as a half-face respirator with P100 filters - about $20 - $25 at any safety/industrial supply.

Here's the one that I wear:
http://www.northernsafety.com/Products/152-6600%20S%2001/Respiratory-Protection-3M-6000-Series-Low-Maintenance-Half-Mask-Respirators.html?OPC=GP1523M02&PFM=B

DickM
April 3, 2010, 04:28 PM
Using that formula it would take 10 minutes for splash lead to reach where the shooting stalls are in a 50 foot range. By then more than likely it would have landed on the floor.

Perhaps I didn't explain it well. What I meant was that a net vertical air current of only about an inch a second would be enough to keep 10-micron lead particles airborne indefinitely, allowing them to be transported anywhere in the range via lateral currents and then inhaled.

But we agree about the primer residue being the larger problem.

Otto
April 3, 2010, 05:15 PM
Lead styphonate is used in ALL primers available to reloaders...

Widener's as well as others, sells non-toxic primers when in stock.
http://www.wideners.com/itemdetail.cfm?item_id=9016&dir=278|284|994

fguffey
April 3, 2010, 07:06 PM
What is in the dross? There is a big market for dross, if you have a lot if it, say tons of it there are people that will haul it off for free, they will even sell it and ship it it overseas for processing. Or they will purchase the dross then ship it to be processed,

F. Guffey

ric426
April 3, 2010, 08:49 PM
Yes, but those flimsy white dust masks won't do nearly as good a job as a half-face respirator with P100 filters - about $20 - $25 at any safety/industrial supply.

I've got a similar one that I use when doing any case cleaning operations, but one thing I've never seen addressed is the question of mask sanitation. Every time I use the mask and take it off there's a fair amount of condensation inside and I can't help but think that there must be a lot of germs along with it. Is it a good idea to sanitize the mask, even if I'm the only user? If so, what's the best way to do that? How often?

marks6806
April 3, 2010, 09:39 PM
I'm new to this forum but I work as an industrial toxicologist and years ago I ran a federal-licensed lead laboratory. Blood levels 'of concern' and ''average blood lead levels in the adult US population' have both declined over the past 2-3 decades. In the early 1980's adult blood lead levels ranged as high as 15-20 ug/dl (non-workplace exposed) and were considered to be of concern only if they rose above 40 ug/dl (in most cases these were workers exposed to lead).

Over the years health authorities (CDC, etc.) have lowered the 'concern levels' for adults and childred to <10 ug/dl for adults and near the detection level for infants/children - mostly due to concern about neurotoxicity, learning disabilities, lower IQ, etc. in children.

The US average blood levels in persons not exposed in the workplace ranges from as low as <3ug/dl to >10/ug.dl in various regions and states in the US. It is often higher in older adults and certain geographic locations, associated with groundwater sources, etc. Recent studies showing increased risks of heart disease and other illnesses in adults with blood levels of >8 ug/dl appear to have 'bias' because these same people also have higher cholesterol, weight, lower income, and other adverse health factors independent of their blood lead levels.

I would not be overly-alarmed about a level of 8 ug/dl. You might get it checked periodicaly and look at possible sources. Do you know what you 'baseline' level was (prior to your hobby) ? If you cast lead bullets and the area is not 'well ventilated' it might be good to install a small exhaust hood above the work area. At the indoor range you might consider an appropriate 1/2-mask respirator with vapor cartridge (NIOSH 42 CFR 84).

Just some suggestions.

MSS

Cosmoline
April 3, 2010, 09:55 PM
I'm thinking about switching to entirely liquid media to clean brass. The tumbler just gets too nasty.

It's of concern primarily because it's cumulative.

357mag357
April 4, 2010, 07:07 AM
MSS,
No, I wish I did. Like other people said it could not be related to my Hobby. Will have the wife checked out soon. Since she never goes down to the basement and has only shot with me twice in 9 years her lead level should be low.

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