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Research on the dangers of lead exposure has resulted in many changes in manufacturing.  However, low levels of lead still exist in contaminated soil, paint in older homes, drinking water, and glazed pottery.  Low levels of exposure to lead have been linked to mental and behavioral development in children, increased blood pressure, nerve disorders, joint pain, and memory problems.

One developing area of concern is the use of lead shot and bullets at shooting ranges.  Thousands of tons of lead bullets and shot are produced annually, much of which is disposed of improperly.
Possible exposure due to improper management of lead include:

1.      Emission into the air when dissolved by acidic rain or soil.

2.      Water pollution resulting from dissolved lead or lead particles in storm water runoff.

3.      Pollution of ground water by dissolved lead.

4.      Inhalation of lead dust particles from firing.

5.      Ingestion of lead particles that have gathered on the hands of shooters.


Though most federal laws apply to lead recyclers and reclaimers, range owners should follow the best management practices to protect the environment and their own liability.

Benefits of Recycling and Managing Used Shot

1. Practicing safe recycling and collection of spent lead shot protects people and the environment from toxic exposure.

2.  Range owners can improve their public image by being proactive and maintaining a clean facility.

3. Lead reclaimers and recyclers sometimes share a percentage of profits with range owners who collect lead.

4.  Proactive prevention of soil contamination will save expenses on future operation changes, should the law require them.

5.  Responsible management protects range owners from possible lawsuit actions for lead exposure. These types of lawsuits have been numerous within the United States

Responsible Lead Management

1.     One of the most effective practices of lead management is the containment of bullets and shot. Containment enables easier reclamation of bullets and recycling of lead.

Bullets can be contained using a variety of methods, including earthen backstops and traps made out of sand, steel, rubber granule, and shock absorbing concrete.

Laying surface traps and directing shooting angles can also contain shot fall.


2.   Monitoring and adjusting soil pH, if outdoors, and controlling runoff can also prevent lead contamination.  Adjusting soil pH may involve adding components such as phosphate or lime.  Owners can control runoff by planting vegetation, spreading mulch or compost, and installing surface covers.


3.      Hiring and regularly implementing lead reclamation is vital.  Processes may include:

Hand raking and sifting the soil for fragments. Employers or reclaimers who perform hand raking should take protective measures to avoid lead exposure.

For larger ranges, purchasing or occasionally renting separation machinery may be best.  The machinery moves large amounts of soil through levels of screens to obtain lead fragments.  Soil can be collect first by hand or by vacuuming.

Soil washing proves to be more effective in extracting lead particles, though it is a more costly option.  The soil within a water solution moves through a mechanical screening process that separates clay, gravel, and other particles from lead shot and fragments.


4.   One final consideration is the use of alternative ammunition.  There is ammunition available comprised of bismuth, steel, and tungsten/iron, though cost and safety concerns should be considered.


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