I posted on here back in August about the experiences of Skrap P, my 8 year old boy, getting started in CAS and how he got lead poisoning pretty bad.
(https://www.sassnet.com/ forums/index.php?/topic/ 265636-a-rough-start-for-an- amazing-kid/)
Many asked for updates and I'm finally doing that. Skrap P still loves shooting as much as ever and I don't think he will ever tire of it. He is working hard to prepare for Winter Range. It has taken a lot longer than we thought to get his lead levels down. He is still a lot higher than we want him to be, but it is consistently coming down. It has been a long learning process to understand how to prevent more lead exposure. He still has the patches on his skin where he lost pigment, but he has started to get his color back everywhere. The patches on his elbows and hands are almost completely gone. Those patches were actually a huge blessing because lead poisoning symptoms don't show up until you have a lot and even then it is hard to diagnose. Even though he had the symptoms it was the patches that helped us figure it out. He had a lot of issues with fatigue, memory and concentration. For example, he struggled remembering the order of the stage even after I went over it with him several times. He would know the order and then forget and I'd have to go over it again. His mind is extremely sharp and quick now. When he shoots he usually understands the order before I do and is ready to go. He is usually the first out of bed in the mornings and hardly stops all day now. He doesn't show any of the lead poisoning symptoms anymore.
Here is a before (above) and now (below)...
So the big question always was, how did he get so much lead in his system? We have never shot in an indoor range. I always made sure we were all very good at washing our hands after doing anything related to shooting before we ever did anything else. I made sure of it. I would tell them to do what I did. I would scrub mine for a long time until I was sure I had everything off and then I would do it the same way again. When we got tested I had very high levels too. We had to be missing something. Fortunately, after a lot of research and because of some amazing medical professionals, we have been able to piece a lot of the answers together. Here are some of the things we've learned.
- The primary explosive agent in primers is Lead Styphnate. Detonating the primer discharges a cloud of molecular lead compounds. This lead is so fine that that it floats through the air for a while, we breathe it in, and it lands on everything. There is definitely a lot in all the powder residue that is all over our casings, guns, and hands. The lead from the primers is more prevalent, more fine, and more dangerous to the shooter than the lead from the bullets. The lead bullets do shear off microscopic lead particles as they travel through the barrel that add more to that lead. Also, when the bullets hit the targets, fine lead particles are thrown everywhere.
- Lead is absorbed through the skin. I have heard all over that lead is not absorbed through your skin, but this is not true! It may be true with other forms of lead, but the superfine lead particles we deal with definitely are absorbed. Our doctor was able to do some testing for us to see. They were able to figure out that both Skrap P and I were getting the majority of the lead through our skin. We also got a decent amount from our mouth or nose (most likely breathing it in). We were also surprised to find out that some lead actually goes through our clothes onto our skin.
- Kids have skin that is a lot thinner and less keratinized, making it way more permeable. They have a higher skin to mass ratio. Because they are so much smaller, a little lead will cause a lot more damage. Also, their systems that clean out toxins are not fully developed. So the lead exposure we adults can handle is vastly different than that of young ones.
- Removing lead from your system is very difficult and takes a long time. Detoxing products are very expensive. It is way easier to prevent exposure than to remove it.
-We are all very different. What adversely affects one person may be fine for the majority of people. A lot of people that work with their hands a lot may have very dense skin and have almost no absorbtion of toxins. So this information that helps me and my boys stay safe may be of no worth to you.
Knowing these things has allowed us to do a few things differently and we hope that it can help others with young shooters be safe. Before, we didn't avoid getting powder residue on our hands. Skrap P was often setting up targets and picking up the brass for everyone until his hands were black. He now has a pair of tight fitting knit gloves with a rubber coating to do that with. I like the Ansell Hyflex gloves for that and they come in lots of sizes so I have been able to get some that fit all of our family perfectly. You can do almost anything with them on so I also usually have them load and unload with them on. You can't wear those shooting so I was happy to find something for extra protection even without gloves. There are a few liquid products that you rub on your hands that dry to form an invisible and unnoticeable barrier for your skin. I like "Gloves in a Bottle". We all put it on before we do any shooting or reloading, etc., whether or not we use gloves. We took it to our doctor and he verified that it does help prevent lead absorption.
I now do all the tumbling and separating of the brass. I do it outside with disposable gloves and a mask. Skrap P had helped with that in the past too. His hands would get pretty dirty and I'm sure he breathed some dust. I believe that was a big contributor to his lead poisoning. Again, we wear disposable gloves while doing any reloading or gun cleaning. We continue to wash well after things. We also have some dedicated shooting practice clothes and keep those and what we wear to matches separate. Our doctor told us that we didn't need any special D-lead soap or anything unusual for washing hands or clothes. So nothing has been too expensive or difficult, which has allowed us to all keep shooting. I thought we may want to wear a mask during shooting practices, but that would be a pain and we seem to be fine with everything else.
Thanks for all the support and prayers!! There are so many that have taught and helped my boys (and me) with things at the matches. Also, many have given us things. We sure appreciate everything! We hope to see many of you at Winter Range or other matches in the future!!!