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Lead Exposure and Lowering Lead Levels

In February 2024, my primary physician informed me that my bloodwork showed a lead level of 37.7. 
A normal level is below 5. 

Even though I have been shooting in indoor ranges for over five years, I didn’t know much about the dangers of lead in the blood system.  I was the first patient my doctor had treated for high lead levels, so she didn’t have many answers to my questions and was learning what to do along with me. I got to work researching the effects of high lead levels, how to counteract lead, and what steps I could take to protect myself. 

Understanding Lead Exposure

A person’s lead levels can be elevated for a variety of reasons, but participating in shooting activities presents a significant exposure. When you shoot, smoke is released into the air that contains very small particles of lead dust. Once expelled, this dust finds its new home on your body, your hands, your clothes, and every other surface in the range. The particles also saturate the air, and if the ventilation system in the range isn’t satisfactory, you will breathe in these particles. This is why most facilities don’t allow open drink containers or food in the range area; lead dust can settle on these and then you ingest even more lead into your system. 

Another way exposure to lead dust occurs is through open sores or wounds on your body that aren’t properly covered or bandaged. A cut, or in my case – cracks in my skin, is a gateway for the lead dust to enter your blood system. 

Even at relatively low levels of exposure, lead has the potential to harm people at any age. It is especially dangerous in children and can damage a child’s nervous system, brain and other organs, and lead to severe health, learning and behavioral problems, including sudden brain damage and long-term intellectual deficits. In adults there is evidence that lead toxicity, even at low levels, can result in hypertension, renal insufficiency, and cognitive impairment, as well as joint and muscle pain, abdominal pain, mood disorders, and severe reproductive issues.

Solutions to Reduce Lead Exposure

Just as there are many ways to be exposed to lead, there are many solutions to help decrease the chances of elevated lead levels that do not include having to give up shooting. I have integrated many of these practices in my life that have helped me get my lead levels down to 11.5 in six months.

One of the main solutions to exposure is to wash your hands, arms and face with de-lead soap and cold water as soon as you leave the range. “De-lead” and “Lead Off” are two kinds of soap that I have used, and most indoor ranges that I have been to in the last year have had these available in the bathroom. If you aren’t able to wash your hands once leaving the range, using a delead wipe is also a good option.

Other actions to take are:

  • Do not touch your face while on the range;
  • Rinse your mouth out with water before drinking or eating;
  • Change your clothes immediately after a range visit;
  • Have dedicated range shoes that don’t go into your car or house without covering;            
  • Take a shower and wash your hair after a range visit;
    • Delead also has body wash and shampoo.

Because my levels were so high, I had to take extra precautions while on the range to protect my health and ability to continue shooting. I began wearing a mask, rated at least a P100 or N100 to stop the dust particles, as well as gloves. Because I have severely dry skin, I consistently have cracks on my fingers and around my cuticles, so incorporating the use of gloves helped protect my hands from the chance of additional exposure to lead dust. Now that my levels are down, I don’t wear a mask unless the range I am on has a faulty ventilation system. But I still wear gloves. 

Before I leave the range after a visit, I take off my contaminated clothes, wash with a delead wipe and put on a clean outfit. My clothes go into a disposable drawstring bag, and my range shoes go into a protective bag as well. I also wash my hands and arms again with delead soap and water if it is available.

My range clothes are washed separately from my other clothes. First, they go through a rinse cycle and then a wash with delead detergent. I also do another rinse cycle after I remove the clothes from the washer to make sure there is no residue left in my washing machine. I use delead shampoo and body wash in the shower once I get home and have finished any task involving my pistol or other equipment that has been with me on the range.

Actions to Lower Lead Levels

This may sound a bit overboard, but I wanted to be able to continue going to the range for my AG & AG events, as well as take classes and compete in IDPA, so I had to step up my decontamination process. If your lead levels are not high, you may not need to do all of this, but these tips can still give you easy options to reduce lead exposure during your range visits.

If your levels are already high, you may need more help. Some instructors take a supplement called Zeolite and highly recommend it, although I wasn’t able to take this because of a daily prescription I take. While Zeolite has great reviews, verify with your doctor before taking it if you are taking a prescription medication. While the supplement can strip the lead from your system, it can also decrease the effectiveness of your medicines.

Instead, my doctor prescribed a regimen of iron, Vitamin B (complete), Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. These have worked very well for me, but if you are considering taking any of these supplements, it is incredibly important that you talk to your primary care physician first to ensure their safety and efficacy before adding these into your routine.

Ongoing Care and Progress

It is important that if you are shooting regularly, you get your lead level tested by blood work. This will at least give you a baseline level to know your level. I have talked to several people who said they requested a lead level test, but their doctor told them that they didn’t need it. Be firm with your doctor and advocate for yourself. It is your right to request a test if there is a cause for concern. What is concerning about high lead levels is that there are often no symptoms until the damage is done. This is why having a test done at least once a year is so important.

At my most recent test, my lead levels were down to 11.5. I still have a way to go to get it back down to normal, but I have a clear understanding of the procedures that have been successful for me. If I stay diligent, I hope that in August at my next test, I will be below five. 

While I am not a medical professional and cannot offer medical advice, the processes I outlined above have helped myself and many other people who want to enjoy their time at the range without being fearful of increasing their lead levels, and I hope it will help lower your levels if they are high.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at memphisagag@gmail.com. While you should always consult your doctor before implementing anything new into your routine, I am happy to talk with you about my experiences and help how I can.


Ranae Knapp is the Chapter Facilitator of the AG & AG Memphis Chapter. She is a Certified Instructor through A Girl & A Gun, USCCA, and the NRA. She is also a Chief Range Safety Officer through the NRA. She is the Owner and Instructor of Basics and Beyond Firearms Academy.

13 Responses

  1. Hi
    Thank you for this information about how to reduce lead exposure while in the indoor range. Mentioned in the article wearing a mask, rated at least a P100 or N100 to stop the dust particles. Also mentioned wearing gloves, do you have a preferred brand of gloves you use or is it just based on fit?

    1. I don’t have a particular brand of glove. I just make sure that is fits well. I have had some that are loose at the wrist, so I tape the ends so it fits snuggly to my wrist. When you get a good fit, it is easier to shoot and manipulate the pistol. If it is loose, the glove tends to get caught up in the slide or magazine. As far as the mask, the ones I used were through Uline. 3M 8293 P100 Industrial Respirator with Valve. These are light weight, but still have the respirator. I hope this helps!

      1. Thank you for the glove and mask info. I will checkout what i currently have. I have also ordered Disposable Nitrile Gloves. I thought I see how these worked out while handling my firearm.

      1. The gloves that I wear aren’t shooting gloves. They are the disposable (one time wear) gloves. Shooting gloves might work, but you would have to wash them each time to free them of the lead dust.

  2. Do you know about / have you tried smoothies with green leafy veg? I haven’t tested lately (need to), but a few years back before I was actively shooting again, I had a comprehensive blood test and it showed very low levels of metals. I attributed that to my daily smoothie with berries, protein powder, and leafy greens.

  3. Hi,
    I was a lot like you, absolutely clueless about led exposure. Then I sat though a “lecture” at my Girl and a Gun GNO, and my eyes were opened to this problem. I have enough medical problems and the last thing I need is a lead problem as well. I came home and did my research and purchased anti-lead wipes in bulk, because they were the best “deal” for the money. I keep about 5 in a zip lock bag in my range bag that I use every time I step out of the active shooting area. I wipe down every exposed area of my body and put the used wipes into a separate bag actually 2 bags that I get from my grocery store and tie them up so others don’t get exposed.
    Thank you for bringing this to so many of us have no clue about what we are exposed to every time we are practicing to protect our family and ourselves.

    1. Yes! I keep the de-lead wipes on hand all the time. I have them in my range bags as well as extras in my car. When I am at a match, I actually wipe down between stages to help keep my hands clean.

  4. I have taught on the range wearing a n95 mask. Combined with ear muffs and the mask, my students cannot hear range commands and instructions.
    The n100 is a much denser mask, how have you overcome the inability of people to hear range instruction and commands with you wearing the mask?

    1. I was a teacher for 25 years, I don’t have a problem with people hearing me. LOL I did have someone suggest one of those portable mic/speakers. If you put the mic next to the mask, it might help others hear you better.

  5. Thank you for the information – I work at a range as well as going to AG&AG events, and just recently thought about needing to get tested. I actually have an appointment for 2 days from now :) – Wendy Dock-Youngblood

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