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Shooters: Get the Lead Out (Part Deux!)



Throbbing basslines, mucho distortion, and a singer with a jet engine for a throat: the only heavy-metal poisoning we want.

Lead is a big Pb and NOPE sandwich for shooters.

Lead is one heavy metal. I don’t just mean that it’s high-density–although it is quite heavy in that way. I mean that elemental lead (Pb) is classified as a “heavy metal,” meaning that it’s toxic to animals at low concentrations. If you’re a true crime fan, you’ve heard about other heavy metals like arsenic and thallium being used as murder weapons. As we discussed last week, lead poisoning can be a real threat to shooters, but it’s one that’s easily mitigated with a little thought. But if you suspect that you might need to get the lead out, you should know that yes, you can recover if you seek appropriate treatment! Here’s what you should know.

How do you test for it?

While there are at-home lead testing kits available for things like lead paint, it is generally recommended to consult a healthcare provider for accurate and reliable testing for lead poisoning. At-home test kits may provide some indication of lead presence in the environment, such as in paint or water, but they are not as effective as laboratory testing for determining blood lead levels in individuals.

Healthcare providers can conduct blood lead level tests to accurately assess the amount of lead in the bloodstream. These tests help determine if an individual has been exposed to high levels of lead and if further medical intervention is needed. If you suspect lead exposure or lead poisoning, it is best to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate testing and guidance.

How do you measure it?

Lead toxicity levels are typically measured through blood lead level testing, which determines the amount of lead in the bloodstream. The units used to measure blood lead levels are usually micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) in the United States. This unit of measurement is commonly used to express the concentration of substances in a liquid, such as blood.

In the context of lead toxicity testing, this unit indicates the amount of lead present in a specific volume of blood. For example, a blood lead level of 5 µg/dL means there are 5 micrograms of lead in one deciliter of blood.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines for interpreting blood lead levels in both children and adults:

  • Low Levels: Blood lead levels below 5 µg/dL are considered low and are generally considered safe for both children and adults.
  • Moderate Levels: Blood lead levels between 5-9 µg/dL are considered moderate and may indicate some level of lead exposure.
  • Elevated Levels: Blood lead levels of 10 µg/dL or higher are considered elevated, and action should be taken to reduce lead exposure and prevent further health effects.
  • Severe Levels: Blood lead levels of 20 µg/dL or higher are considered severe and may require immediate medical intervention and treatment to reduce lead levels in the body.

It’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider for proper interpretation of blood lead test results and to determine the appropriate steps to address lead exposure based on the individual’s age, health condition, and level of lead toxicity.

How do you treat it?

Treatment may include:

  • Chelation Therapy: This is a medical treatment that involves administering medications to help remove lead from the body. In general, the medicine finds and sticks to metals and minerals in the bloodstream. This action creates a substance that leaves the body in the urine.
  • Supportive Care: Managing symptoms and complications associated with lead poisoning.
  • Dietary Changes: Ensuring a diet rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C, which can help reduce the absorption of lead.
  • Education and Prevention: Educating individuals about lead exposure risks and prevention strategies to avoid future exposure. Including changing habits like hygiene or changing ammo types.

With timely intervention and appropriate treatment, individuals with lead poisoning or elevated lead levels can recover and prevent further health complications. However, the effectiveness of treatment can vary depending on the severity of lead exposure and the individual’s overall health. Regular monitoring and follow-up care are essential for managing lead poisoning effectively. The effects of lead poisoning can be managed and, in some cases, reversed, especially if detected early and appropriate interventions are implemented.

While some damage caused by lead exposure may be irreversible, many symptoms and health effects of lead poisoning or elevated lead levels can improve or be mitigated with treatment. For example, cognitive and behavioral issues in children may improve with interventions such as chelation therapy, removal of lead sources, and supportive care.

How do you prevent it?

Regular testing for lead levels and adherence to safety guidelines are crucial for individuals who engage in shooting activities to minimize health risks. To minimize lead exposure while shooting, shooters should consider the following safety precautions:

  • Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation in indoor shooting ranges to reduce lead dust and fumes in the air.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Wear appropriate PPE, such as gloves, masks, and protective clothing, to minimize direct contact with lead particles.
  • Hygiene: Wash hands thoroughly after shooting or re-loading to remove any lead residue. Important Washing your hands only is not enough. How many times after extended shooting you have a gritty feeling on your exposed skin like your face? You need to wash or D-Lead wipe all your exposed skin. Remember lead particles can be contained in the air around you as you shoot.
  • Avoid Eating or Drinking before decontamination: Refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in shooting areas to prevent ingesting lead particles. Especially on hot days how many of us shoot, then do not wash our hands, then open bottles of water?
  • Regular Blood Tests: A few range trips should not elevate your lead levels especially if you follow good practices. But for firearms professionals like competition shooters, Armorers or even instructors that are constantly exposed then it may be a good idea to get blood lead level tests regularly to monitor for any elevated levels. Remember have the conversation with your primary Doctor if you are concerned.
  • Cleaning and Maintenance: Clean firearms in well-ventilated areas and use lead-specific cleaning products to reduce lead exposure during maintenance.
  • Education: Stay informed about lead poisoning risks and proper safety measures to prevent exposure. (Hopefully you find this article informative enough to continue your lead level journey)

By incorporating these precautions into their shooting routine, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of lead exposure and associated health issues.


There are several commercial products designed to help clean hands and remove lead residues effectively most are widely available and can be found at shooting suppliers like MidwayUSA, Brownells and even Amazon. Some of these products include:

  • Lead Removal Hand Wipes: These wipes are specifically formulated to remove lead and other heavy metal residues from hands.
  • Lead-Removing Soaps: Hand soaps with lead-removing properties can help cleanse hands effectively after shooting activities.
  • Industrial Hand Cleaners: Some heavy-duty hand cleaners are designed to remove tough contaminants, including lead, from the skin.
  • Waterless Hand Cleaners**: Waterless hand cleaners that contain pumice or other abrasives can help scrub away lead residues without water.
  • Barrier Creams: Barrier creams can be applied before shooting to create a protective layer on the skin, making it easier to clean off lead residues afterward. These also work with things like paint, especially useful for someone like myself who coats firearms.

When selecting a product, ensure it is specifically designed for lead removal and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use. Additionally, always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after using any lead-cleaning product.

Does all ammo contain lead?

Not all ammunition contains lead, but lead has been a common component in bullets for many years due to its density and effectiveness in ballistics. Lead is often used in the core of bullets for its ability to deform upon impact and transfer energy to the target. However, there are non-lead alternatives available for those concerned about lead exposure, such as copper, steel lead free ammunition.

It’s essential for shooters to be aware of the composition of the ammunition they use and to consider alternatives if they are concerned about lead exposure, especially in indoor shooting ranges where lead dust can accumulate. By choosing non-lead ammunition, shooters can reduce the risk of lead exposure to themselves and the environment.

Are high levels of lead a death sentence?

Lead poisoning or elevated levels are not necessarily a death sentence and can be treated, especially if detected early. Treatment for lead poisoning typically involves removing the source of lead exposure, such as contaminated water or lead-based paint, and implementing medical interventions to reduce the levels of lead in the body.

Knowing the symptoms of elevated lead exposure and adopting best practices when dealing with lead exposure will be the best way to prevent elevated levels. It’s easy to catch it before it gets toxic, but you need to be aware of the risks associated with lead exposure and take appropriate steps, such as using personal protective equipment, practicing good hygiene, ensuring proper ventilation, and undergoing regular blood lead level testing. By being proactive about lead poisoning prevention, shooters can reduce the potential health risks associated with lead exposure.

—James the “XDMAN” Nicholas, Mr. UnPewfessional Himself!

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