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Study Documents How Shooting Ranges Poison Children; One of the Nation's Top Lead Polluters

For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Shooting Ranges Exempt from Pollution Control Laws-Including President Bush's Recent Lead Emissions Rule

"Lead is a persistent and highly toxic substance that can cause a range of environmental and health problems," Bush said in a statement. "It has an especially harmful impact on the health of children and infants." -The Washington Post, April 18, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC - The Violence Policy Center (VPC) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) today released Poisonous Pastime: The Health Risks of Shooting Ranges and Lead to Children, Families, and the Environment. The 71-page study documents how shooting ranges are poisoning children and polluting the environment with lead, yet remain almost entirely unregulated-exempt from even the Bush Administration's new lead pollution reporting rules.

Poisonous Pastime documents how parents often put their own children at risk because they do not know that their visits to the local shooting range can result in lead poisoning of their children at home. Lead poisoning is known to cause terribly debilitating and sometimes fatal effects on children and adults.

"There is no question that the toxic levels of lead at shooting ranges are endangering America's children and families," VPC Senior Policy Analyst and report author Tom Diaz said today. "No amount of lead exposure is known to be completely safe for a child. Poisonous Pastime reveals for the first time that the gun industry-through toxic and unregulated ranges-is sacrificing the health of our children for profit."

Poisonous Pastime details how outdoor firing ranges put more lead into the environment than nearly any other major industrial sector in the U.S., yet they remain almost entirely unregulated. In just two years a typical outdoor firing range can have lead contamination equivalent to a five-acre Superfund site.

The study reveals how school administrators throughout the country were oblivious to the dangers of lead - from school shooting ranges - until students were found to have elevated blood levels.

"Every one of the 1,800 firing ranges in the U.S. represents a piece of land so highly contaminated with lead that it would require a massive clean-up effort to be safe for wildlife or any industrial or residential use," said EWG Research Director Jane Houlihan.

Poisonous Pastime finds that the shooting range industry downplays the seriousness of its problems, hides them from the general public, and allows thousands of unregulated shooting sites to continue to operate without strict oversight. It is based largely on the records of internal industry meetings and gun industry publications. The report includes recommendations at both local and federal levels.