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Inhalation toxicology

Health effects after firing small arms comparing leaded and unleaded ammunition.


PMID 25373830

Abstract

A number of Norwegian soldiers have reported health problems after live-fire training using the HK416 rifle. The objective of this study was to characterize gaseous and particulate emissions from three different types of ammunition, and record the health effects after exposure to emissions from live-firing. Fifty-five healthy, non-smoking men (mean age 40 years) were recruited and divided randomly into three groups, one for each type of ammunition. All subjects fired the HK416 rifle in a semi-airtight tent for 60 min using leaded ammunition, unleaded ammunition and modified unleaded ammunition. Gaseous and particulate emissions were monitored within the tent. The symptoms experienced by the subjects were recorded immediately after and the day after firing using a standardized questionnaire. The concentrations of particulate matter and copper exceeded their respective occupational exposure limits (eight hours per day, five days a week) by a factor of 3 and 27, respectively. Of the 55 subjects, 54 reported general and respiratory symptoms. The total number of symptoms reported was significantly higher among shooters using unleaded ammunition as compared with the use of leaded and modified unleaded ammunition. Copper was the substance that had the highest concentration relative to its toxicity. Although the general symptoms were found to be consistent with the development of metal fume fever, the respiratory symptoms indicated an irritant effect of the airways different from that seen in metal fume fever. More symptoms were reported when unleaded ammunition was used compared with leaded and modified unleaded ammunition.