View Full Version : Question about Lead Safety

April 9, 2010, 08:21 PM
I have a question about lead, it is not really related to bullet casting, but it seems you guys work with it a lot when casting bullets so I figured you would be able to provide me with an answer.

A friend of mine who lives with me has a piece of lead (about the size of a marble) that he cut out of a lead weight. I know people say lead is not good for humans and so, my question is, should I be concerned about him having it around/should I say anything to him about? And if I should, what is a reasonable thing for me to ask of him? (i.e. Should I ask him to simply wash his hands after handeling it and before touching things in the room? Specifically, should he not touch door knobs etc. after handling it?) I don't want to be overconcerned in approaching him about it, which is why I figured I would ask for someone's knowledgeable opinion first.

Thanks, I appreciate your help.

April 9, 2010, 10:13 PM
Welcome to the forum! I would not be too concerned about the lead your roomate has. It is important to wash your hand thoroughly after handling lead. If he handles this lead often and does not wash his hands there is a slight risk he may contaminate things that he touches. Is this contamination life-threatening??? Probably not. Will it elevate the amount of lead in your blood to a noticable level...probably not. I would only be concerned if he handles this piece of lead frequently and does not wash his hands after doing so. Other than that, I would not be too concerned. Some people think lead is extremely toxic and unsafe to handle. This is simply not true. Just tell him to wash his hands thoroughly...with cold water and soap.

Hog Buster
April 9, 2010, 10:47 PM
I’ve cast lead bullets, sinkers and such for over 50 years. I haven’t lost my hair, had a third arm grow out of my back, turned into a psychopath, or caught a cold from being around the fumes or touching lead.

The only lead I worry about is the small piece that would be coming at me from a firearm.

April 9, 2010, 11:27 PM
Elemental lead is basically inert. They are still pulling Mini-ball bullets out of civil war battle fields that are full weight. Yea you'll absorb a smidgin through skin, but not enough to cause harm. Unless he is sucking on it like a gobstopper it won't hurt him.

My dad "borrowed" one of my 5 lb ingots to have on his desk. Just to watch the look on people's faces when they try and pick it up, thinking it's something lightweight like aluminum or zinc.

The danger with lead is when it is in the form of organic compounds, which is the case with leaded gasoline and lead paint. Both have the lead bound into organic compounds that are VERY easily absorbed into living creatures.

It's not lead itself that is dangerous. It's the FORM that the lead is in that makes it dangerous.

Example: Nitroglycerin in its pure form is highly unstable and very dangerous. Mix that Nitroglycerin in various ways and you get dynamite and smokeless powder, neither of which are anywhere remotely as dangerous or unstable as Nitroglycerin even though they both contain it.

April 10, 2010, 02:04 PM
I believe OSHA classifies lead as an hazardous waste.

April 10, 2010, 05:59 PM
Most nuke facilities have stopped using lead as shielding. AS an aside, I have been casting for close to 40 years and I am fi..fi..ummm..what were we talking about?

April 10, 2010, 06:42 PM
I believe OSHA classifies lead as an hazardous waste.
OSHA is like Bigfoot. Plenty of people claims they exist, but no proof of them exists. I know cause I've tried to contact them at past jobs.

April 10, 2010, 07:01 PM
Lead is a carcinogen, BUT only if ingested or inhaled. You should probably wash your hands if you have handled it, but it will not harm you by just being on your hands. If you are melting it at very high temperatures the vapors CAN harm you in very large doses.

There was a big write up on lead poisoning a few months back concerning a country in Africa. The country is so poor, and lead is worth a little money recycled. Ten or so years ago these people were tearing apart old car batteries and selling the lead out of them. The lead was dripping into the soil and sand around them. Now, ten years later, their children are coming up with all of these rare diseases that point to lead exposure.

I've worked with lead in the past, and we've all used old lead fishing weights and eaten without washing our hands on a fishing trip. I think it's just one of those things that they have to warn you about so that years down the road you can't sue them. KNow what I mean?

But, to answer your question .... I do not believe, from personal experience, that small amounts of lead, or even by just touching lead, that you are in harms way.

April 11, 2010, 07:05 PM
Thanks guys for the input, I appreciate it.

April 11, 2010, 09:49 PM
I believe OSHA classifies lead as an hazardous waste.

NO they don't consider it hazardous waste. It can be hauled to landfills here in Wisconsin without restriction. Who knows about other states.

I have different cast lead bullets in my pockets sometimes for days to show people my latest mold. One guy refused to touch one, said he didn't want to die! I called him a fool for believing all that BS from the EPA.:rolleyes:

Shane Tuttle
April 11, 2010, 09:53 PM
I believe OSHA classifies lead as an hazardous waste.

Yeah, and if I blow my nose, they claim my mucus is hazardous waste, too. :rolleyes:

If you are melting it at very high temperatures the vapors CAN harm you in very large doses.

If one is melting at temperatures so high that they're breathing in lead vapors, there are many other problems at hand....

April 13, 2010, 01:16 PM
If one is melting at temperatures so high that they're breathing in lead vapors, there are many other problems at hand....
Yup. Nobody who casts or smelts WW ever operates their furnace or smelter at temperatures high enough to createanything more than trace amounts of lead vapors. Most smelters and furnaces can't even each temperatures that high, you need at least 1200F IIRC to get any significant lead fumes.

Nobody has their head inside the smelter either breathing in the vapors either.

April 18, 2010, 01:16 AM
All this worry about lead hazards is overrated IMO. I had my blood level checked recently just out of curiosity during an annual physical and it came back at a 2. The doc told me it was nothing to worry about. I fish a lot during the summer and I am always biting on pure lead split shot to open and close them and have had no probs. People who have been shot and survived have had lead bulets inside them for years with no ill effects from the lead itself. So I think that simply holding a small piece of lead in your hand is completely harmless.