Lead is a common element found in the earth's crust. It has many useful purposes. But if humans are exposed to too much lead, it can lead to serious medical problems. How are shooters at risk of lead exposure?
It is a dirty little secret in the shooting world, that lead is all around us. Lead gets on our hands as we load cartridges into our firearm. When shoot the gun, lead particles come out into the air. Lead gets on our face, our hands, and any other exposed skin. It can even get into the hair. Once the lead settles to the ground, it attaches to the bottom of our shoes. Lead gets into our bodies three different ways.
Lead can get into our bodies directly through contact with the mouth. This can easily occur if we have lead on our hands and fingers. This is why eating is generally prohibited at ranges. One thing that many people overlook though is chewing gum. If you do this while shooting, you are allowing the lead from the air to stick to your gum and causing it to be brought into your mouth and ingested.
Lead can also enter the system by being inhaled. This can occur by breathing through either the mouth or the nose. When the lead gets in, it can then begin to enter the bloodstream.
The third way lead enters the body is through absorption. This is where the lead attaches to the skin. It then absorbs into the pores and directly to the bloodstream.
Lead exposure can cause side effects at any level. But higher concentrations of lead in the body can be particularly dangerous. Shooters with young children in the home should also be extra cautious, as children with smaller bodies are more susceptible to lead poisoning.
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