I do not want to cause alarm as I am sure most of you will never have a problem.
Lead poisoning has some nasty symptoms all of which can be attributed to many other sicknesses. These include (taken from the Health & Saftey website of the University of Texas at Austin):
1. Loss of memory, and difficulty in concentration. This is frequently the first symptom seen.
2. Fatigue. This can become profound and incapacitating.
3. Irritability and aggressiveness.
4. Loss of sexual interest. Impotence.
5. Insomnia. (Which greatly complicates the fatigue.)
8. Neurological symptoms, such as hand twitching.
9. Encephalopathy. This is the medical term for major brain dysfunction
10. Elevated blood pressure.
11. Digestive difficulties and abdominal pains.
12. Weight loss.
13. Joint pains, particularly in the joints of the long bones, like the wrists.
15. In women, menstrual irregularity and decreased fertility. (Again, lead poisoning may have been responsible for the documented dramatic decrease in fertility among the Roman nobility and upper classes.)
16. Kidney damage and/or liver damage.
17. Sore or bleeding gums around the margin of the gum and tooth.
18. In children, retarded intellectual development, behavioral problems, as well as most of the other problems listed above.
Most shooters will not experience lead poisoning but if you are in contact with lead in other areas of your life if can be dangerous.
“The daily exposure to toxic materials in our shooting/training environment creates a sword of Damocles above our heads. ” – Jen Heider
I am very careful about my health. I get a blood test for lead annually. This is probably more often than needed but I do not take chances with my health. My lead levels have never been high enough to cause concern.
I think testing yourself every few years if you are a casual shooter or more frequently if you are an instructor and enthusiast, I am the latter.
Here are some links you may find useful:
(Photo from Harshad Sharma)