Minimizing lead exposure while reloading

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by TomJ, Feb 6, 2020.

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  1. TomJ
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    TomJ Contributing Member

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    I found out recently that my lead levels are a little high. They're not high enough that I need to take any action medically but I want to limit my exposure. I currently dry tumble my brass and while it looks clean, there is a layer of residue on it. Is dry tumbling and then cleaning the brass in a bucket of water with Dawn sufficient for removing the residue or is it better to invest in a wet tumbler or sonic cleaner?
     
  2. D Rock

    D Rock Member

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    The dust from dry tumbling is always a concern, Keep things as clean as you can. Wet tumbling will not raise any dust, but you should still wear gloves if you're concerned about chemical or heavy metal exposure.

    I also wear nitrile gloves when reloading. Everyone I know thinks the gloves are over kill but I do it anyway.

    Dave
     
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  3. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    What kind of projectiles do you use?
     
  4. mcb

    mcb Member

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    A little liquid Turtle wax on your tumbling media with keep the dust down and have less of it stick to the cases. Wearing nitrile gloves is a big help. Don't eat or drink while reloading. I do all my tumbling out in the shop to keep the dust out there too. Case prep is you biggest exposure as the lead compounds coming from the spent primers is your most bio-absorbable compounds.
     
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  5. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    The only time my lead levels were high, was from me shooting indoor matches weekly.

    I quit doing that but continued to shoot out door matches on Saturday/Sunday and cast bullets/reload during the week and my levels went down.

    If ai have the correct amount of polish in my media, it’s not dusty but one can also wet tumble or ultrasonic clean brass too. With collated case and bullet feeders you can never touch a bullet or case until you case gauge.

    If you don’t shoot indoors, just wash your hands more often and before eating, smoking and such.
     
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  6. frankmako

    frankmako Member

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    how do you know it came from reloading? it could have been from some other factors. are you casting bullets and/or reloading with lead bullets? shooting in a indoor range with poor venting. i have been reloading since the early 70's and a bullet caster since the early 80's. because of my job and competition shooting i shoot a lots each week, so i should have problems too. but i don't. i get two physical exams a year with blood tests and i got nothing showing high lead. i should because of my shooting/reloading/casting/powder coating. i would check other factors to be on safe side, it might not be reloading.

    you can wear nitrile gloves, apr mask, and/or a dust mask. wet pin cleaning will clean the best. best of luck with this and i hope you get better.
     
  7. TomJ
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    TomJ Contributing Member

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    Everything I use is plated, with no exposed lead.
     
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  8. TomJ
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    TomJ Contributing Member

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    I used to shoot at a local indoor range until I learned that their air filtration system wasn't up to par, and their employees had lead poisoning issues. I now shoot almost exclusively at my gun club, which is outdoors. I'll shoot at a different indoor range with a working filtration system 3 to 4 times a year at most. I'm pretty sure my elevated lead levels were from shooting at the first range but want to make sure I'm not doing anything while reloading to contribute to it.

    I use a spare bedroom as my reloading room and moved my tumbler to the garage to keep the dust out of the house. Thanks for the other suggestions. It sounds like dry tumbling with polish in the media followed by cleaning the brass in a bucket of Dawn and water will work.
     
  9. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    I use Oneshot polish and it helps keep any dust down when dumping my brass out and results in cleaner cases IMO. I use a Cabela's media separator and it closes up tight and keeps the media and dust contained. I use a Thumler's rock tumbler, meant for wet tumbling to actually tumble and it contains everything. I may go to SS pins in the future but I really haven't felt the need. And I wear one nitrile glove on the brass handling hand to limit residue coming into contact with my skin. I also only shoot plated or jacketed bullets. I also mostly shoot outdoors. Though winter is indoor range time.

    I haven't been tested lately, but these seem reasonable precautions to me.

    I also totally glove up when cleaning guns for reasons beyond just lead.
     
  10. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    I had my lead levels checked on a blood test. They were normal. I cast, reload, and shoot.
    Is there any chance you have contact with lead outside of our sport?
    Lead pipes?
     
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  11. TomJ
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    TomJ Contributing Member

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    Not that I'm aware of. The pipes in my house are either cast iron or PVC.
     
  12. sequins

    sequins Member

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    Wear coveralls, gloves (latex medical type or similar to maintain dexterity), and perhaps a respirator as well. Wash hands with d-lead soap or a similar soap product with cold water only, warm opens pores and promotes absorption. Never reload and snack.
     
  13. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    Washing your hands after handling/shooting is your best defense. Good personal hygiene after these activities will go farther to reduce lead exposure than any of the other items. Keep your fingers out of your mouth, don't eat or smoke while shooting, etc.

    Lead is absorbed into the body only when it's oxidized, vaporized or ingested. You can't absorb it through your skin. I've had a bullet fragment in my body for years, and it hasn't affected my lead levels at all, and won't, according to my doctors and lead contamination experts. Simple hygiene is your best defense against lead exposure.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred

    PS: I've been reloading since 1963, and casting bullets since about 1968, and now cast commercially. At my last physical, my lead level was 6, but that's probably more from the lead solder on the copper pipes in my house than from these activities. Taking large doses of Vitamin C will help to leach the lead from your system, too.
     
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  14. DocRock

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    For lead to pass the tissue barrier and enter blood it has to be in a gaseous state or physically enter through a wound. There exists no risk of increased lead levels in blood from dry tumbling/handling brass that has been dry tumbled unless you have open wounds or are sticking your fingers in your mouth while doing so. Nevertheless, if you are concerned, wear a mask and gloves when handling tumbled brass and rinse the brass to remove the residue/dust of dry tumbling. Just washing your hands well after handling the brass will achieve the same thing.
     
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  15. doubleh

    doubleh Member

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    This. ^
     
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  16. Laphroaig

    Laphroaig Member

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    Mine is hovering around 6 too. I shot a lot at an indoor range a couple of years ago, and it jumped up to 18.

    I've been told that continued exposure causes lead to be deposited in your bones that slowly leaches out over time. Shooting causes some exposure, no matter how careful you are. Those of us who are old enough to have grown up in the leaded gasoline era have been subjected to decades of low level exposure as well.

    I'm just trying to keep mine below 10.

    ETA: I started having my blood lead level checked when a shooting buddy of mine was diagnosed with lead poisoning.
     
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  17. film495

    film495 Member

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    Hope you get it figured out. I try to wear the nitrile gloves, but don't always. One thing I've noticed is that if I don't wear the gloves - I can wash my hands for 10 minutes, two times - and at some point later that day I'm going to have to go wash out my eyes because without knowing I'll rub or touch my eye, and something on my fingers will irritate the eye and it will burn and start to water. I have really sensitive eyes. If I fill the sink up and submerge my hands, and really wash the tips of my fingers well, I don't have the same result later in the day. Point being, if my eyes weren't sensitive - I'm sure whatever is on my hands if I'm not washing well enough, would also end up in my mouth. My point is only that you may be having exposure from some way you are completely unaware of.
     
  18. mdi

    mdi Member

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    I'm often concerned about safety "warnings" I see in forums. I worked for a large west coast city and had annual checkups, including heavy metals blood testing. I reloaded and cast the entire 25 years I worked there (in a Heavy Construction Equipment Repair facility). My lead levels were near upper limits but not excessively high. I retired, moved out of LA, but continued to cast and reload, perhaps a bit more since I had more time. 6 years after retirement/move my lead/blood levels dropped dramatically. It wasn't my reloading/casting that caused elevated levels, but the Los Angeles air!
     
  19. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    Most of us have probably ingested a #7½ shot or two while eating game. Or a fragment of....
    That would be a considerable dose I would think.
     
  20. GT1

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    Lead styphnate in the primers is the danger we face as shooters(as mentioned, indoor shooting ranges need really good ventilation).
    Besides shooting the worst thing you can do is dry tumble in your living/reloading area. Same lead styphnate is in that dust coming off from the tumbler. I see so many pics of tumblers on the bench, worst idea ever.
    Handling bullets, casting(the real danger is burns, not lead), very little to no danger as long as you keep your fingers out of your mouth, and don't eat or smoke until you wash your hands.
     
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  21. DocRock

    DocRock member

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    You could eat lead shot all day and all it will do is chip your teeth.
     
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  22. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    That's weird
     
  23. doubleh

    doubleh Member

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    My old tumbler has a lid and no dust gets out. I also throw a dryer sheet in it to collect dust. Although it leaks no dust while running I still set it outside to run just because I don't like the noise it makes. I also dump it outside when a run is finished standing upwind from it. I seldom use the tumbler anymore. It's so easy to use lemon juice and water in a container that the tumbler just sits on a shelf.
     
  24. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    ?I'm confused @DocRock
     
  25. DocRock

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    Lead shot cannot pass through the tissue barrier. It's too large and it won't break down in digestion. The dust from tumbling contains lead from primers that is sufficiently small in size that the natural lesions in your mouth, throat, and intestinal wall will allow it in into the blood stream and could even be absorbed during digestion.

    Or: Lead shot, big. Tumbler dust, tiny. ;-)
     
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