Gun Ranges Cited for Lead Dust Exposure

Aug 21, 2019

Indoor shooting ranges are popular across the country. Many law enforcement professionals and private gun owners use these ranges to practice their target shooting. However, in an enclosed space like this, lead dust exposure can become a dangerous problem.

OSHA has cited gun ranges in the past for failure to control lead dust. Specifically, excessive lead dust can accumulate on surfaces and in the air. This can quickly exceed the permissible exposure limit. The OSHA limits for exposure to lead are very low because it is so toxic.

Lead dust exposure has become a serious issue for employees at indoor shooting ranges.Lead Dust Exposure at Indoor Gun Ranges

In 2019 OSHA cited an indoor shooting range for exposure of lead dust. Because they often don’t have proper ventilation, lead dust levels in indoor gun ranges can be very high. Consequently, the penalties for the 2019 case in Texas totaled over $200,000. One of the major issues the company faced was using brooms to sweep up dust and lead debris. Another issue is the company’s failure to address damaged personal protective equipment or do medical testing.

Lead dust exposure at indoor gun ranges can be higher than many people realize. A review of several scientific studies found that people who spend time in indoor gun ranges have blood lead levels up to 40 times higher than the average person (Lead Exposure at Firing Ranges – A Review).

This elevated exposure even applied to people who only attended one shooting event. It took days to weeks for lead levels to return to normal after just one event. People who regularly use an indoor shooting range, with regular exposure, may have unsafe lead levels.

Another issue noted by OSHA and the same scientific studies found that a major risk is lead dust was accumulating around the facility. People using or working in an indoor gun range can pick up lead dust on their clothes or bodies. This dust then goes home with them and can affect others with lead exposure.

Lead Dust Control in Gun Ranges

Gun ranges usually have a strong focus on safety and proper gun handling. However, they need a dust control system to prevent shooters and workers from lead dust exposure. The OSHA-cited facility in Texas attempted to clean up their dust and debris with brooms. This does not remove the dust. Instead, it pushes it into the air, where it settles onto surfaces.

The employees doing the sweeping are at high risk, but anyone inside the gun range will experience exposure. Even without stirring up dust on the floor, shooting produces airborne lead dust around the shooting area. Even if employees take precautions during cleaning the area, shooters wear no respiratory protection. This means that only a dust collection system can control lead dust exposure.

Simple ventilation will not solve the problem. The EPA regulates emissions of toxic materials like lead. The best solution is an industrial dust collection system. You can use a cartridge dust collector as an ambient system. This type of system cleans lead dust out of all the air in the facility on a continuous basis.

Rather than venting lead dust into the environment, a dust collector will capture the dust. Cartridge dust collector filters are highly efficient for small particles. If needed, after-filters can be added to make sure all the lead dust is captured.

Advantages of a Dust Collector for Shooting Ranges

A dust collection system will help a shooting range control lead dust exposure in several ways.

  • Remove lead dust from the air around the shooters, keeping their exposure under control during shooting.
  • Continuous dust removal prevents lead dust from accumulating, limiting the exposure that happens when workers sweep or clean up lead dust.
  • The efficient filtration prevents the outside release of lead dust and keeps it from getting back into the building.
  • Cartridge dust collectors are easy to maintain. Pulses of compressed air clean the filters, unlike HVAC filters in a regular ventilation system.
  • Safely contain lead dust. It can be disposed of according to local regulations. Material contaminated with lead is less likely to end up in the environment.

A properly designed dust collection system will clear the gun range of most lead dust. This lowers exposure and makes cleanup easier and safer. Lead exposure in gun ranges could cause health problems. Protecting workers and shooters should be a priority. A CMAXX dust collection system offers an efficient way to decrease lead exposure and remove lead dust.