Shooting Ranges: Pumping our Soil full of Lead?

Lead pollution has come into the spotlight as of late, particularly as it pertains to outdoor shooting ranges. As you may know, Michigan is home to many outdoor shooting facilities. With the high number of ranges in our state, people have begun to worry about the lead contamination that could occur in the soil near them.  The necessary precautions are being taken at most ranges in Michigan, but soil contamination of these areas is something we must keep and ever-watchful eye on.

The fact of the matter is, shooting ranges cause lead pollution. It is the control and clean-up of lead within these ranges that is the main area of concern. If lead levels get out of control, it can be bad news for neighboring communities. Prolonged lead exposure can lead to birth defects, internal organ damage, and in extreme cases death.

As long as the organization or business near your home is diligent in their cleaning and maintenance, you really have nothing to worry about. There are a variety of ways that shooting ranges combat the effects of lead pollution and decrease their impact on the environment on a day to day basis. Vigorously maintaining soil cleanup is one of them. This entails sifting through the soil and removing the munitions fragments before they can release harmful toxins over time. The more proactive shooting ranges are, the better.

Certain advances in bullet technology should settle your worries about lead pollution as well. Most munitions today are constructed with a copper jacket over the inner lead slug. This makes the bullet a bit more environmentally friendly by cutting down on the amount of lead seeping into soil. Further than that, the creation of “green bullets” has revolutionized the outdoor shooting range’s environmental impact. These bullets are made of tungsten and tin rather than lead, and are non-toxic to the environment. The integration of this new type of bullet has already been implemented in many of the shooting ranges of U.S. military bases with stellar results.

That being said, the U.S. government defines lead pollution as the number one environmental threat to children. While lead pollution in a given area may not be completely caused by outdoor shooting ranges, it nevertheless becomes increasingly important for us to regulate the practices occurring there.

As bullet fragments and slugs are continually shot into the soil, over time they can accumulate and release contaminants. The key of lead’s mobility into the soil is the presence and frequency of water on the shooting range. The type of soil that comprises the area affects the rate of contamination as well. Through a system of loopholes, they remain largely exempt from pollution control laws as well.

The key to safe soil is being pro-active. If shooting ranges do their part in cleaning up, then we wont have to worry about contamination. In combination with that, there is a great deal you can do if you want to go out to a range. Start thinking about using better bullets that wont harm the soil and lead contamination will be a thing of the past.

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