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Remember to test your blood for lead

Submitted by Ronald Alley
Melrose Police Department, Massachusetts

As law enforcement professionals, we owe it to ourselves to get routine health care screenings.  We are all familiar with getting regular blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, but what about lead? Within our secondary duties (firearms instructor, SWAT, etc.), and just as involved police officers, we have exposure to the hidden element of lead. 

A key ingredient of ammunition is lead styphnate priming compound in the primer.  Products of combustion from the lead styphnate priming compound absorb rapidly through the entire respiratory system.  That's the truly hazardous stuff. That's where full time range officers get it.

Limit your exposure by insisting on ventilation that pushes combustion
products down range, away from the line.

Find a properly ventilated indoor range with 100 percent air change.  On range adopt universal precautions, such as no eating and drinking, no smoking and cautious sweeping of residue.  Of course, where an option exists, always opt for outdoor range use over indoor.  Always wash hands, face and arms, in addition to using dedicated "range clothes" to avoid cross contamination.

With the aforementioned, let’s get back to lead levels in the blood.  I would advocate that any blood work done for any purpose, include a screening for lead levels.  As an avid shooter, ammunition reloader, and firearms instructor, I do just that.  The results have been surprising at times (high) and have lead to my own lead avoidance procedures.

We are familiar with all the usual law enforcement hazards.  I ask that you recognize this hidden officer safety issue and give it some thought.

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