Information and Education => Reloading and Handloading => Topic started by: xsquidgator on November 27, 2008, 11:53:28 am

Title: What's your lead level...?
Post by: xsquidgator on November 27, 2008, 11:53:28 am
...in your blood, that is.  I started getting blood Pb level taken with my annual physical bloodwork last year, when I started casting bullets at home.  Last year none detectable, this year I'm showing 16 mcg/dL.  The level is moderate to moderately-high, but what concerns me the most is the rate of increase- if I don't change anything, I'd be looking at something like 30+ next year, and 30 is definitely getting up to a problem level.  I only got the results yesterday so I'm thinking over my casting, reloading, and shooting habits, but I'll be making some changes.  Fwiw I suspect my main exposure is not from casting (limited number of times per year, and with fairly decent ventilation) but from shooting.  I shoot outside so I don't know yet what I'll be changing, but after a range trip frequently the first couple of times I blow my nose it'll be full of black dirt.

So, if you're not checking your blood Pb levels, you might ought to consider asking for the test when you do see your doctor for bloodwork.  It's a non-standard test so I have to ask for it, but it is as simple as asking them to run the test when you have a blood draw.
Title: Re: What's your lead level...?
Post by: xsquidgator on November 28, 2008, 06:15:53 pm
A little good info on what various levels mean and what you might oughta do about them...

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lead-poisoning/FL00068 (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lead-poisoning/FL00068)
Title: Re: What's your lead level...?
Post by: xsquidgator on December 04, 2008, 08:56:12 am
I think I've identified (through various web research, mostly reading various gun and cast bullet boards, some product research) likely sources of my lead exposure.  I'll be working on these, and am getting retested in several months.  The consensus among guys who've had lead in their blood before (what their docs said) was that you need to get treated if you're over 40 mcg/dL but below that, try to eliminate your exposure to lead and let your body clear it out over time.

Lead exposure sources to consider:
1) your skin - if your skin hasn't been thoroughly cleaned in the area where they take the blood sample (like the inside of your elbow),  you may get a false high reading due to lead in the dead layer of skin being introduced into the needle when it goes into you.  Clean the sample area extra thoroughly prior to getting your blood draw.

2) dust from your case tumbler- Case tumblers are supposed to be chock full of lead from the primers, and unfortunately a lot of it is in a very fine dust that can easily be inhaled.  I've started doing the dryer sheet thing where I cut up a dryer fabric softener sheet and put the pieces in every time I tumble cases now.  It does come out filthy with dust and dirt on it so I think this is removing a lot of dust that might have gotten knocked into the air.
I now make a real effort to not breathe when i have it opened up, and am getting a respirator.

3) Hygiene- wash hands thoroughly every time handling reloading components.  I have been wearing latex gloves while doing this, but haven't been paying enough attention to the washing, and laundering clothes immediately after doing lead activities.

4) it is not likely that simply melting lead will release lead fumes into the air, but why take a chance?  I'm doing my casting outside now and/or wearing a respirator.

The respirator:
3M Model 6000
http://store.pksafety.net/asledu.html (http://store.pksafety.net/asledu.html)


Home Depot and Lowes around me seem to just have the pesticide ones, so for the same $30 or so I ordered one specifically intended to filter lead.  I may later buy the $20 cartridge that also has activated charcoal in it to filter even more stuff out, I'll see how my retest goes.

I suspect that breathing gunsmoke in is where some of my exposure is, but I don't see wearing this to the range unless I'm there by myself.
Title: Re: What's your lead level...?
Post by: CAJUN 48 on December 10, 2008, 05:56:56 pm
Thanks for the heads up. I never even thought about lead poisoning. Was in on 12-9 to have blood work for my colesterol so had the doc tack on a lead test. I'll know in a coupla days. Just getting into reloading and used this as a chance to get a baseline.

Thanks again,  aj b
Title: Re: What's your lead level...?
Post by: xsquidgator on December 19, 2008, 02:29:49 pm
Thanks for the heads up. I never even thought about lead poisoning. Was in on 12-9 to have blood work for my colesterol so had the doc tack on a lead test. I'll know in a coupla days. Just getting into reloading and used this as a chance to get a baseline.

Thanks again,  aj b

Well, I hope reading about my little experience helps.  I'd read all this before from others but figured it didn't apply to me, but now I know better. 

  I've been using the respirator for a week or two and I'm really glad I got it.  Started using it when cleaning up after one of our dogs poo-d in the house (STINKY!).  The respirator had just come in the mail so I tried it on before cleaning up the dog poo.  It sure made that job a lot easier let me tell you, I was amazed that none of the awful smell got through the filter.   I did a couple of boolit casting sessions using it this week, and it did nicely at getting the acrid odor and stuff out of my face (even with a good fan blowing it away from me you can still smell something without a respirator).  And, it makes cleaning guns easier for me too, as it seems to block the nasty vapors that get blown around while cleaning out a gun.  I like the smell of Hoppes #9 but getting a lungful of it probably isn't too good.  We'll see around Springtime how well the blood retest goes and that'll be the best feedback about whether the lead-dust respirator really helps.
Title: Re: What's your lead level...? Update 4-10-09
Post by: xsquidgator on April 10, 2009, 02:39:23 pm
Well, good news for me, I just had my lead level checked about 4 months after my initial post in this thread, and I'm back down to 10 mcg/dl from my November 2008 level of 16.    It would seem that paying more attention to hand-washing hygiene, making an effort not to breath in the smoke when I shoot, and wearing a respirator when casting and emptying my tumbler has helped   :clap

If you cast, reload, or just shoot a lot (especially if your shooting is in indoor ranges), I highly recommend you get your blood Pb level checked when you have any bloodwork done.  I used to habitually poo-pah environmental and safety warnings, but I have a new respect for them, well some of them anyway, now.  Like the NRA poster says, "Get the lead out!" and wash off any lead you get on yourself or your hands.
Title: Update after 2 1/2 years or so...
Post by: xsquidgator on July 18, 2011, 06:22:04 pm
Trying to stay on top of my lead hygiene has paid off, I think.  Just had another annual checkup and my lead level is now < 3 which I think is the test's lower limit of sensitivity. So, late 2008 got up to 16, down to 10 for a year or two, and then finally down to < 3 now.

Watch that lead exposure and get your blood level tested!
Title: Re: What's your lead level...?
Post by: THE NORSEMAN on July 18, 2011, 11:19:13 pm
Good work.

Couple things I'll add- 

When washing lead residue off, you want COLD soapy water.  You're not after germs here, you're after metallic contaminants, and the cold water helps shrink the pores in your skin closed so that you wash it off instead of rub it in.

After shooting, reloading etc., keep your hands away from your face until they've been washed. 
Title: Re: What's your lead level...?
Post by: Daylight on July 27, 2011, 05:42:16 pm
A note on respirators:  do not confuse the "nuisance dust mask" with an air purifying respirator.  Nuisance dust masks were a product looking for a market.  Air purifying respirators (APR) come in different sizes to fit different faces.  Facial hair creates a problem for good fit.  (Some people uses petroleum jelly to improve seal, although no manufacturer recommends this.)  Select a correct filter for the APR from the manufacturer.  There are different makers, and most cartridge styles do not interchange.  Masks are available in half face (nose down, eyes exposed) and full face.  Powered air purifying respirators are also available (PAPR) which use a battery powered blower to deliver air.  These are heavier, much more expensive, and use up cartridges faster, but make breathing easier because the user does not have to suck the air through the filters. 

APRs have flapper check valves to make sure air is drawn in through the cartridge and exhaled through exhaust ports.  If these valves do not operate freely and seat fully you will may draw in dirty air, or have the mask stick to you like an Alien face hugger.  (Ask me how I know.)  Some cartridges offer warnings when they are exhausted.  (If you can't suck air through your HEPA filter, it is time for a new one.)  Carbon filters (and some other types) will continue to pull stuff out of the air even when you are not using them, so they should be stored in a sealed plastic bag when not in use.

Some masks are equipped with hoses which moves the cartridge off the face, and possibly farther from sources of contamination, reduce the weight on the users neck, and lessen blind spots caused by the mask.

Using goggles with a half face mask can lead to fogging problems.  Full face masks cannot be used with normal eye glasses, although many are equipped (or can be equipped) to hold eyeglasses with special frames.  (Think sawed off side pieces.) 

I recommend contacting a safety supply company and getting fitted by someone who knows what they are doing.