Articles About Lead and Lead Exposure

FEBRUARY 12, 2019


By Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Retail and Range Business Services

NSSF is committed to helping our ranges stay OSHA- and EPA-compliant when handling the hazardous wastes that are naturally generated at their facilities. In doing so, we often join forces with professionals in the industry who work with lead and other firing range waste materials on a daily basis. One of those companies, and one we’ve worked with in the past, is MT2 Firing Range Services, a nationwide professional lead waste reclamation business. This week I spoke with MT2’s Dale Krupinski, Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and Certified Safety Professional (CSP) to discuss how ranges should classify the different types of waste their facilities naturally generate and how those different waste categories should be handled.

Zach Snow (ZS): Can you provide an overview of what a range owner or manager should keep in mind when classifying various range waste?

Dale Krupinski (DK): The first step I would recommend is to take a look at everything you dispose of, then, determine what components could possibly be lead-contaminated. Once those possibilities are identified, you then test them to see if they fall into the hazardous waste category.

ZS: Can you think of any wastes that are commonly overlooked in this initial evaluation?

DK: Absolutely. Cleaning-related wastes are commonly overlooked. For instance, any used mopping solution, mop heads, rags, towels, and sponges used in cleaning a range should be examined and tested for lead contamination.

ZS: How can a range make sure its lead cleaning supplies are separated from other, non-lead cleaning supplies to eliminate the chance of cross-contamination or accidental or incorrect use by employees?

DK: I would recommend color-coding all cleaning supplies like mops, rags, buckets, and vacuums used in lead areas to minimize the risk of contaminating areas where lead shouldn’t be present, like break rooms, bathrooms and offices. Obviously, staff should be trained on the coding system to include keeping lead-use cleaning tools separate from non-lead cleaning tools and dedicating each set only to the areas for which they should be used.

ZS: Many ranges use an ultrasonic parts washer in maintaining their rental firearms. How do you test the ultrasonic parts washer waste?

DK: Testing normally requires a range to pour some used solution into a laboratory bottle and send it to a lab for analysis. The range will need to coordinate with the lab to ensure it has the proper sampling supplies and paperwork before submitting samples. I usually suggest that a range take enough of a sample to run two separate tests, a toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP) and a total lead test. Typically, a lab will need about 100 grams of solid material and 250 milliliters of liquid for each test. However, range facilities should consult with their lab to confirm minimum sample requirements.

The TCLP test will determine if the waste is a hazardous waste. If this test comes back as non-hazardous, then the range should have the lab run the second total lead test. The total lead test results could be shared with the range’s local wastewater treatment facility to gain approval to “sewer” the used ultrasonic solution down the drain. Ranges should not pour potentially lead-contaminated liquids down the drain unless they have documented approval.

ZS: Let’s talk about another waste that can be considered hazardous waste, your range’s filters.

DK: Both vacuum and ventilation filters could potentially be hazardous waste. The amount of lead built up in these filters will depend on the areas of the range they service and their replacement frequency. The longer you wait to change these filters, the more likely it’ll be that the filters will qualify as hazardous waste.

Treated range filters

ZS: What if my filters come back as non-hazardous waste? Can a range throw them in the dumpster?

DK: If your lab data from filter testing comes back as non-hazardous waste, I suggest that you contact your local waste handler to confirm that these filters could be placed in the range’s out-going trash. Typically, a specialty container and pickup must be arranged with your waste company. Keep a copy of your lab results, as the waste handler may want to see proof.

ZS: Dale, do you have any final thoughts?

DK: I would like to suggest retesting your waste periodically throughout the year to give you peace of mind, and also whenever a production change occurs. By production change, I mean higher than normal rounds fired downrange, or if the range expanded its rental gun or customer service programs and significantly increased the number of firearms cleaned per month. These increases in production could generate more lead than previously believed and potentially cause a non-hazardous waste to become hazardous waste.

About MT2
MT2 Firing Range Services is a professional indoor and outdoor firing range lead reclamation, maintenance and construction contractor. Now in its 18th year, MT2 Firing Range Services is a recent Inc. 5,000 fastest growing company and a provider of full-scale firing range environmental, maintenance and construction services at over 2,500 ranges across all 50 states.

Tampa Bay Conservation League

Aug 14, 2014

Environmentally-friendly (100% lead-free) ammunition

In pursuit of 100% lead-free, non-toxic ammunition. 
It may surprise some of our readers, but we’re open about it: We here at the Tampa Bay Conservation League are all active shooters and believe, without boundaries, in gun rights.

However, we are, at the core, conservationists.  And we cannot overlook the danger and health issues with lead-based ammunition.  Without getting into the endless debates about whether or not it’s really right to leave lead in our hunting areas, we believe the debate really should look at something else as well:  The effect not only on animals, but on humans.  And, not necessarily you, but children, most notably, children 6 and under, where even small amounts of lead ingestion can have harmful results.  So if you have kids, or are around kids, it’s worth being considerate about lead.

Countless studies have proven, without any doubt at all, that shooting lead ammunition is, simply, bad for your health.  When you shoot, you get lead dust on yourself and bring it into the house, into your car, into your workplace, and so on.

You can take simple precautions, starting by starting by realizing that you, your clothes and your shoes are covered in fine lead dust when you leave the range.

However, it’s worth understanding where the lead danger actually is in your ammo.  

First, we’ll start with the bullet.  Most bullets are made of lead, and upon firing. release lead dust. You can reduce (but not eliminate) lead exposure by using any form of jacketed bullet, but most noticeably with a TMJ (Total Metal Jacket), where the lead core is totally surrounded by a copper jacket.  Jacketing reduces lead exposure, but even with TMJ, it will not be eliminated.

Another method is to move to lead-free bullets, such as the ones offered by Barnes or Nosler, or to frangible ammunition.

However, the bullet is only part of the problem.  The primer (the part that gets hit by the hammer, exploding the gunpowder) also uses lead — in particular, a compound known as lead styphenate.  So, even if you go for a lead-free bullet, you’re still going to get lead ingestion, through the primer (older, so-called “corrosive primer”, used a mercury compound).

Even so-called “non-toxic” ammunition may have lead-primer.  You really have to check. For example, CCI makes a “non-toxic” 22LR rimfire cartridge, but it’s actually only the bullet that’s lead-free.  The primer uses lead.

Lead-free primer has controversy: There is a general belief that the shelf-life is shorter than normal lead primer, or that it’s not as reliable. All we can say is that we’ve shot with lead-free primer extensively and it’s never posed a problem.  High-end lead-free primers, such as Sintox by RWS, seems to be very much in the lead in technology. However, I suppose time will tell how well they hold up; but I very much suspect that you’ll find lead-free primer, adequately stored, lasting plenty of time.

One thing you will notice going lead-free:  Man, is it easy to clean your gun.  There’s no lead fouling, which is actually the most difficult thing to get out of a gun.