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Old March 23, 2019, 06:35 AM   #1
surg_res
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Lead lead lead

Odd question for a curious audience. Does anyone have any first-hand knowledge of toxic or even detectable levels of lead in ground water, surface water, or other soil products produced in or around moderately utilized gun ranges?

I'm looking to create a shooting lane at my farm, really the only safe spot, offering 300 yards with 50-60ft hillside backdrop. Caveat is that there is a small pond running through a draw between the potential shooting station and the wooded hillside back-stop.

As a physician here's what I do know. Lead is not readily leeched into water unless it is very warm--i.e. plumb means lead and as we all know it was used extensively in the past for plumbing; however, life expectancy was also 45 around 1900.

I have had a patient in the past who was filled with bird shot in his back (his chest x-ray looked like a silhouette filled with #7.5 shot). Working him up for anemia, I was certain he would have lead poisoning, but it was undetectable in his blood. He was not bright, but unable to declare causation under the circumstances.

Our local gun range "mines" the lead out of its berms every so many years, but i think this is mostly for scrap value, rather than environmental concerns.

Waterfowl poisoning is from direct consumption of lead pellets by the birds, not from lead levels in the surface water as many think.

Most human 'poisoning' is from consumption of lead paint chips, mostly children, living in old houses. The chips flake off the walls and taste sweet. Since organic lead compounds were removed from fuel, lead poisoning has become much less common.

So key question is about lead in the soil leeching 20-30 yards forward into the pond and affecting my livestock / fish, etc. Let me know your experience on the subject.
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Old March 23, 2019, 06:42 PM   #2
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I dealt with a lot of lead covered cable over the years. There was no evidence of lead leaching in studies conducted by the local water utility. The water supply then was an underground aquifer which still serves maybe 75% of the local water supply.

Also, some of the guys were tested and none were showing any lead levels above the norm. This was approximately 15 years ago and beyond.

Lead covered cable is almost pure lead.
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Old March 24, 2019, 04:05 AM   #3
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I heard some closed ranges were declared Superfund sites, but that would be for politics, not actual environmental issues. I would see if the Army did any studies at the ranges they've operated for a few centuries. As for me, I have never seen it.
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Old March 26, 2019, 07:29 PM   #4
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Lead contamination

If lead leaching into groundwater was ever problematic it would have surfaced around the civil war battlefields where the wells were basically surface water in the late 1800's.
No reports of multiple cases of lead poisoning near these battlefields in the post civil war era have been unearthed.
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Old April 3, 2019, 07:32 AM   #5
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https://www.sciencedaily.com/release...1104005801.htm

Interesting 2004 study conducted by Virginia Tech geologists at the US Forest Service gun range. Asked the exact same question as I did, found zero lead in the surface and ground water. They concluded it doesn't get into groundwater. The site had >23 m tons of it scattered all around.

If the lead remains buried it will oxidize more slowly and be more inert.

After reading several articles, I would be more concerned with long-term inhalation of lead vapor in an enclosed firing range, than I would be from lead deposited in the topsoil. I would've guessed that non-jacketed ammo would produce significantly more lead vapor; however, primers are listed as a source as well. The link below is to a 'review article' published in Environmental Health. It collected multiple case series and case reports then compiled them.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5379568/

I reviewed their listed data and find no consistency in most of the case report information; however, the larger reports cited do seem plausible, as there are at least larger cohorts and variables. The excerpt below is from a 2009 German study. The number on the left column is blood lead level, with range next. To the far right is the number of people tested for each group. For reference, average BLL is 1.2 mcg/dl in the US. >10 is considered abnormal for adults. >50 requires occupational removal per OSHA. Children are most susceptible and should be <5 mcg/dl. The article extrapolates that children associated with exposed subjects had high lead levels, but again no statistical controls.


Shooter 9.2* 2.7–52.1 Germany 129 Demmeler et al. (2009) [44]
Shooter: Q1 200 rounds/month 8.7* 2.8–31.4 27
Shooter: Q2 200–399 rounds/month 9* 2.7–31.5 28
Shooter: Q3 400–680 rounds/month 11.8* 2.9–37.5 29
Shooter: Q4 > 680 rounds/month 13.8* 3.7–52.1 23
Airguns 3.3* 1.8–12.7 20
Airguns and .22 caliber 8.7* 1.4–17.2 15
.22 lr bore & large caliber 10.7* 2.7–37.5 51
Large caliber handgun 10* 2.8–32.6 32
IPSC (International Practical Shooting Federation) 19.2* 3.2–52.1 11


If anyone here shoots more than 400 rounds per month, especially in an enclosed range, I would consider checking a BLL the next time you get blood tests. Children should probably stay away from gun ranges.
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Old April 4, 2019, 10:29 AM   #6
Don Fischer
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People have been shooting lead bullet's in your situation since the first lead bullet was made! Everyone of them died somewhere between birth and about 100 yrs old. Your worrying to much!
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Old April 4, 2019, 08:46 PM   #7
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Ha ha, likely so!

Boy scouts taught us to leave no trace, so perhaps I'm conservation-minded.

Ever wonder why it is that aged ammo smells so different? Almost like different vintages of wine.
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Old April 5, 2019, 09:03 AM   #8
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Ever wonder why it is that aged ammo smells so different? Almost like different vintages of wine.
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Not me, if I find ammo that has a vinegar smell I try to save the case.

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Old April 5, 2019, 09:10 AM   #9
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http://www.abandonedok.com/picher/

Visit Picher, Oklahoma, I did not visit but I have been there and I have friends that worked in the mines.

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Old April 5, 2019, 03:56 PM   #10
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Very interesting, Mr Guffey.
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Old April 13, 2019, 08:59 AM   #11
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Picher is irrelevant. The mine areas here are full of ore, dust, chemical compounds. Picher's biggest problem was airborne lead. The groundwater was also a problem, but the airborne lead filled homes with toxic dust, the cars would be covered, the ground was poisoned, etc. The problem that has been found all over the area was that processing releases lead as gas or dust with every pound of ore. Places near smelters had aerosolized lead landing on the ground for decades. It took many years to have the pollutants reach well depth, and many wells are still unaffected but ground surfaces are unacceptably toxic. Homes near the eagle picher smelter here were dug out as part of the superfund and sixteen inches of fresh soil was replaced.

A few facts to think about. First, lead is pretty much inert in the body. a bullet will not seep into the blood, it just sits there. A layer of oxide seals if off from further leaching.

Lead pipes are in some cases an overstated concern. In fact, my house feeds off of lead mains and my water is within tolerances. Scale forms in the pipes and seals off most of the lead. Until the scale is disturbed everything works well. In fact, there are crews outside this week preparing to replace this last one block long stretch of lead.

Lead in waterfowl happens in dabbling ducks that feed from bottom water. They swallow pellets and those pellets, just like sand, catches in the gizzard, and that lead is literally ground into paste, being absorbed in the intestines.

In the wild, just like in pipes, lead does not tend to leach into the soil. Lead bullets form a layer of oxide, much like aluminum, and that layer doesn't dissolve. It sits there inert forever, leaching very little. Bullets from over a century ago show thick scale, but they don't dissolve like a piece of steel would.

Your range wouldn't have thousands of pounds of bullets or fragments laying on the ground. There won't be aerosolized fumes, should be very little dust or other fine powder.

You will be shooting into a berm, right? Your lead will punch into the dirt berm. hills or other types of Dirt berms don't allow water to seep through the soil into the ground water, rain generally runs off. The lead remains buried, away from ground water in generally dry dirt. It forms scale from corrosion by the water available in the dirt. It becomes a mostly inert thing like a pebble.
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Old April 13, 2019, 02:07 PM   #12
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Good info surg_res. I may have my BLL checked one of these days.
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Old April 14, 2019, 11:11 AM   #13
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If blood level testing wasn't so expensive I'd suggest it for anyone who did a lot of shooting.

There are so many forms and activities that can vary exposure. A caster/reloader will get more lead from the boxes if he handles nothing but unplated/uncoated bullets than a man who puts millions of jacketed rifle rounds down an outdoor range. An indoor range that allows unjacketed bullets will still get some aerosolized lead from primers and from bullet scrapings. and flame cutting. I'm certain that a guy who cleans his guns regularly, scraping small bits of lead out of the thing will get lead ground down into the skin that will take careful washing.

When I was working in the stained glass business I had to wash constantly. Working with dead soft, oxidized pure lead, my hands would get black in minutes. Then with chemicals it would be ground in. Then cleaning the finished work with whiting and glazing compound would create filthy dust.

The one most important thing is to use clean glasses and equipment, wash your apron and gloves occasionally, wash your hands carefully whenever you handle lead.

Someone who wears his 'lucky jacket' every time and never cleans it or his tools, and thinks that handwashing is for sissies is going to swallow lead every time he licks the barbecue sauce off of his fingers when he has ribs after a day long session.

Some scientists claim that there is no safe level for lead, that if even minute traces of lead are in your system those few atoms of lead, like little ninjas, will seek out your most precious brain cells and decapitate them.
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Old April 14, 2019, 09:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Some scientists claim that there is no safe level for lead, that if even minute traces of lead are in your system those few atoms of lead, like little ninjas, will seek out your most precious brain cells and decapitate them.
I have noticed a few individuals running around lately that don't have anything to worry about. I am talking about how can you lose something that you don't have??
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Old April 16, 2019, 11:01 AM   #15
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There are also plenty of people who will ignore the obvious dangers of inhaling hair spray or smoking finely ground wheel bearings in a bong, but will literally crap kittens if lead is found in their water, even though that lead is well below accepted safety levels.

A woman started taking splenda in her coffee because she thought that she would lose weight. Oops, she didn't. Even though there were no claims made that she would lose weight, not ever, she and a lawyer put together a class action suit against the maker for making a product that didn't fulfill a claim that they never made.

My home is on the last block served by a water line. The pipes that serve this very last block, just like the power and phone lines, are still the original lines run decades ago.

The street outside my home was sawed up two weeks ago, after over half a century, the water company is finally replacing that one block long piece of lead pipe. I've never had a lead reading that was significant because our water is as hard as bricks and there is probably a half inch layer of scale in those pipes. I probably get more lead from just handling my guns that have a bit of lead residue.
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Old May 15, 2019, 03:31 PM   #16
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My old station had an indoor range. The range had been in operation since the 1930's. In 2009 there was significant ground contamination by the vent outlets.
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Old May 15, 2019, 05:30 PM   #17
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Don't ask don't tell............................
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Old May 16, 2019, 07:48 AM   #18
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Our club

I have not been active in this club for a few years. I was when the lead crap storm hit.
The club has been primarily a trap shooting club and has been in continuous operation since the 1930's if memory serves. We also have a 100 yd. rifle lane, pistols are permitted also, only shot on the rifle range.
The area where the shot falls from the 2 trap ranges is heavily wooded thus the property has never been mined for lead.
One local saying I tend to agree with. Please don't Californicate Oregon. People bail on the golden state daily, and move to Oregon to escape. Can't escape when you want many of the same things that you left......
One of those folks bought a home near the club. Apparently the agent did not inform them that we shoot trap a couple three times per week. The range is used a lot, it is the only range in the county. So they decided the thing to do was get our range shut down.
Their first attempt was noise. That fortunately did not cost us much, judge quickly threw it out, pretty much a we were there first deal.

They then pursued Lead contamination in their attempt to close our range. A small creek runs past the berm area for the rifle range.

It cost us a bunch, NRA helped. We built a huge bullet trap for the rifle range and of course some neanderthal decided to shoot it with .50 cal. AP ammo fortunately the damage was easily repaired.
It is a members only range. It's very rural and isolated too. We were certain the shooter was a trespasser. We have an hearing impaired individual who lives on site now, that keeps the riff raff away.
We had no issues with the DEQ with regard to all that shot in the shotfall area. 90 years worth of it.

Given the ongoing sky is falling crusaders I am not revealing the name of the club. True story tho.
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Old May 16, 2019, 12:21 PM   #19
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The most significant lead risk is to children, who are growing their brains a s nervous systems.

My club recently improved our ranges in many ways. One thing I notice is a concrete roof over the backstop berm. It prevents ricochets over the berm or any false claim of ricochets over the berm. It keeps the berm dry from rain, which makes it easy for the fellas that sift the dirt to collect the lead for casting more bullets.

We all care about the environment, maybe more than people that don’t get outside for sport. Recycling isn’t some new thing- it’s cleaning up and re using perfectly good lead.

Before, we didn’t much think about it. I think it’s better now, even if we made bullets out of candy corn.
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Old May 18, 2019, 07:25 AM   #20
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The big stink

I get a parallel almost daily. The worst health practitioner on the planet is......Dr. Google. I am in the X-ray business for heath care.
The general public and anything that becomes complex are a very bad combination.

Exposure to X-ray can be harmful. Lead can be harmful.

That's my point, in any subject that becomes complex the general public will always go to the drama side. That's because of the poor excuse we see for journalism today.
Many of the posters on this site are far better wordsmiths than what I see on a daily basis online by 'journalists'.
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Old May 22, 2019, 03:55 PM   #21
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Yeah that is an interesting metaphor. I am a vascular surgeon and get daily hours-long exposure to X-ray when using fluoroscopy, so would say that I am somewhat familiar with the long-term risks associate with that occupational exposure. We should chat that up offline--curious to see what you think about the rates of cataracts, face cancers, and brain tumors in our professional cohort.

Of course, that may all be 'fake news' if you choose to sell the equipment rather than make a living standing 18 inches from it.

The original post was about the potential for lead contamination in surface water. I wouldn't consider myself the general public, nor a sensationalist, but do want to protect my livestock, children, and wild game from contamination if reasonable. I think the bottom line is that most exposure risk is in the process of shooting, rather than in the accumulation of bullet debris. I'm not proposing legislation banning alcohol, tobacco, or lead bullets, but would consider it an exposure--and one that many may consider important in their long-term health.
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Old May 22, 2019, 08:05 PM   #22
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I worked with a lot of lead in my youth as a plumbers aid and never suffered any type of poisoning or mutation. I'm like every one else with 14 fingers and 9 toes.
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Old May 23, 2019, 09:28 AM   #23
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Lead becomes mobile after acted on by an acid. If you dig out a bullet that has been in the ground for some time, and that ground is not acidic, you will find a white coating on it. That is a lead phosphate coating and it immobilizes the lead.

Unfortunately that coating is broken down by acid. So what I would do if I was worried about it is test the soil for acidity. If it was much below neutral I might mix in some limestone screenings and #8's. Then I would sprinkle some Ag Phosphorus on it a couple times a year, rake that into the soil. Not a lot though, you don't want that running into the pond and causing an algae bloom.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18380230
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