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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2011-0069-3140, noise and lead exposures at an outdoor firing range - California.

Chen L; Brueck SE
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2011-0069-3140, 2011 Sep; :1-25
On February 25, 2011, NIOSH received a technical assistance request from a federal government agency to assess exposures to noise and lead of firing range instructors at an outdoor firing range in California. On April 11-12, 2011, NIOSH investigators evaluated employee exposures to noise and lead during a 3-day basic firearms course. Eight students and five instructors contributed 14 personal noise dosimetry measurements over 2 days. During live fire training, we measured sound levels and octave band noise frequency levels with a type 1 SLM. We took 16 PBZ air samples and six surface wipe samples for lead. We also used a colorimetric wipe test to test for lead on hands. Noise monitoring results indicated that all participants' TWA noise exposures exceeded the NIOSH REL, some exceeded the OSHA AL, but none exceeded the OSHA PEL. However, noise dosimeter microphones and electronic circuitry do not adequately capture peak noise levels above the maximum range of the instrument, therefore, personal TWA noise measurements from gunfire noise using dosimeters should be interpreted cautiously. These measurements can underrepresent noise exposure and hearing loss risk from gunfire noise. Sound level meter measurements revealed that peak noise levels during gunfire were greater than 160 dB. None of the lead PBZ air sampling results exceeded applicable OELs. Results varied from Day 1 to Day 2, which was likely due to the meteorological conditions. Under different meteorological conditions and employee proximity to the gun smoke source, exposures may be higher. Lead was found on the outdoor picnic table surface where we observed employees eating lunch. Employees appeared to have good hand hygiene as no lead was found on the hand wipes after washing. Because of the high noise levels in firing ranges, double hearing protection is necessary. The noise levels generated by the firearms warrant a hearing conservation program, which should meet the requirements of the OSHA hearing conservation standard [29 CFR 1910.95]. Firing range instructors should have yearly audiometric evaluations to measure hearing levels and identify hearing loss. Reviewers of audiograms should be aware of potentiating and synergistic effects of ototoxins such as lead and solvents. To reduce lead exposures, use of non-lead bullets and non-lead primers should be considered as it becomes economically feasible. Good personal hygiene should continue to be encouraged to reduce the potential for lead ingestion. Personal noise measurements taken during a basic firearms course at an outdoor firing range exceeded the NIOSH REL. Personal lead air measurements did not exceed applicable OELs, but lead was found in air samples and on a picnic table where employees ate lunch. Employees should wear double hearing protection and participate in a hearing conservation program.
Noise; Noise-analysis; Noise-exposure; Noise-measurement; Noise-protection; Noise-sources; Ear-protection; Ear-protectors; Hearing-level; Hearing-protection; Hearing-loss; Noise-induced-hearing-loss; Impulse-noise; Police-officers; Emergency-responders; Ototoxicity; Author Keywords: Other Justice, Public Order, and Safety Activities; firearms; lead; noise; impulse noise; impulsive noise; hearing loss; shotguns; rifles; outdoor firing range; ototoxins; ototoxicity
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2011-0069-3140; B10122011
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: March 18, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division