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Workers' compensation: Lead poses risk for gun range workers

Workers at gun ranges in Colorado and other states will know the risks posed by firearms, and they are probably aware of all the elements of firearm safety. However, many of those employees may not realize the dangers of the lead dust to which they are exposed every day. With every bullet that is fired, lead dust fills the air, causing harm to employees who might soon have to rely on workers' compensation benefits because of ill health due to lead exposure.

Authorities explain that a standard bullet comprises a copper cover, wrapped around a lead core, sitting on lead primer and gunpowder. The lead primer ignites when the gun is fired, and this lights the gunpowder, causing the lead core to get hot. Next, the bullet ejects through the gun's barrel with a trail of lead particles following it as it travels through the air. Inadequate ventilation in a shooting range allows these particles to be inhaled and accumulate on the workers' clothes.

The dangerous lead particles are then carried home on the clothes of employees, exposing their families to the same hazard. In 2015, a routine medical examination showed an excessively high lead level in the blood of a 1-year-old child. After a thorough review, it was affirmed that no lead existed in the construction of the child's home. The lead was ultimately traced to the clothes of his father who was a maintenance worker at a gun range. The same occupational hazard faces weapons instructors, defense personnel and police.

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidelines for allowable lead levels, authorities say any amount of lead in a person's blood is too much. It adversely affects brain and kidney functions along with cardiovascular health. Workers who are suffering the consequences of lead exposure may seek financial assistance with medical expenses and lost income by filing claims for benefits with the Colorado workers' compensation program.

Source: wyomingpublicmedia.org, "Lead Dust From Firearms Can Pose A Silent Health Risk", Accessed on May 25, 2017

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