We’ve been hearing a lot lately about PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and how important it is for medical professionals. And rightly so, because wearing the right protective gear can literally save your life and protect you from the dangers of COVID-19 and plenty of other diseases. Maybe it didn’t occur to you that the PPE you bring with you to the range can be just as important for your own health and safety.

If you’re a veteran, there are plenty of times you went to the range and sat through a range safety brief. “Don’t point your weapon at something you don’t intend to shoot.” Yeah, that’s the speech we’re talking about. In that speech, the range safety officer probably told you how important it was to have your eye pro and your ear pro too, right? Everyone checked for safety glasses and ear plugs, and you were expected to wear them while you were shooting—because it doesn’t matter if you’re uncomfortable when you’re protecting your long-term health.

But no matter how many times you heard that speech, there was something that was always left out. Eye pro, check. Ear pro, good to go. Now, what about your lungs?

That’s right, true range safety gear should protect your eyes, ears, and lungs. The lungs always get left out, but their long-term health is at stake every time you fire your weapon. What do your lungs need to be protected from at a range? Glad you asked. It’s a little thing called lead poisoning.

It turns out that lead is used in both the primer and the bullet itself. In many types of ammo, the primer is about 35% lead sulfate. Upon discharge, it turns into a fine powder and is released right in front of the shooter’s face. When the bullet travels through the barrel, the extreme heat causes trace amounts of lead to vaporize. Every time you fire, you’re inhaling the lead particles and fumes that discharge from your weapon. Those lead particles settle into your lungs, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream. Lead dust can also stick to your clothes and your hands, leading to increased contamination when you eat or drink.

Now, you may be scoffing and thinking you have plenty of buddies who spend time at the range, and no one has ever complained about lead poisoning before. The problem with lead poisoning is that it doesn’t have to come from a single source. Lead builds up in your body throughout your life, and can come from a variety of sources—lead paint in your home, lead pipes used in your drinking water supply, lead from food stored in earthenware containers, etc. If you would be upset to read a water report about elevated levels of lead in the drinking water in base housing, then you should be equally concerned about the lead exposure you are getting at the range.

Studies have shown that people who use shooting ranges for work (including military and law enforcement) have higher levels of lead in their blood, especially if they use higher-caliber weapons. Lead levels were elevated in users of both indoor and outdoor ranges. Systemic lead exposure may increase the risk of seizures, infertility, reduced cognitive ability, or muscle and joint pain.

If you want to protect yourself from ongoing lead exposure at the range, there’s a simple piece of PPE you should add to your range safety gear. A tactical respirator has replaceable filters that will trap those lead particles before they reach your lungs and your bloodstream. The new design from O2 Tactical is a respirator that is very breathable, even during strenuous activity, so it won’t hinder your movements at the range. It is designed to be comfortable and compatible with facial hair, so your glorious post-military beard won’t get in the way. They even ensured that it will work with your eye pro, with a low profile and a design that prevents fogging your glasses.

An O2 Tactical tactical respirator will protect you from lead exposure at the range, while conforming comfortably with your other PPE. If you’re a gun enthusiast or spend regular time at a range, then this is one piece of safety gear that should become part of your kit.

This article is sponsored by O2 Tactical.