Saturday, June 6, 2015

Eat lead, you dirty varmint. No, wait, don't!

Actually an English tourist at a Las Vegas machine gun. Photo by John Locher/AP.

Heard this on the radio from RevealNews, and subsequently saw the story in prose from the Seattle Times, which has been doing a mammoth investigation of the subject:
For over a year, The Seattle Times has been investigating how people shooting at dirty gun ranges across the U.S. have suffered from lead poisoning. Sometimes, they’ve lost feeling in their hands and feet. Other times, they’ve been too tired to get out of bed. Police are especially at risk because they have to go to gun ranges to keep their jobs. We hear from a corrections officer who got sick, and we talk to the family of an officer who died after a weeklong training session. We also look at steps firing ranges can take to prevent lead exposure.
It's pretty horrifying; if you do your weapons training at an inadequately ventilated indoor shooting range, you can give yourself really severe lead poisoning, and it seems that few ranges get inspected—201 out of an estimated 6000 commercial ranges, according to one OSHA report, and of these 86% showed at least one lead-related standard violation, many ranges scoring 20 violations and up. People are really dying. It's some of the worst workplace pollution I've ever heard of, and the famously powerful police benevolent associations and fraternal orders don't seem to be doing anything about it.

But the thing that instantly occurred to me wasn't mentioned in the story.

It had to do with the lead-poisoning theory of urban crime in the US; that the precipitous rise and fall in the crime rate between around 1968 and 2008 is directly connected with the similar rise and fall in atmospheric lead do to the rise in the use of leaded gasoline starting around 1945 and its banning in 1972. Could lead emissions and their associated effects on childhood problems like "lower IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities" have been responsible for the crime wave of the 1970s and 1980s? Could the decrease in atmospheric lead starting in 1972 have something to do with the remarkable decrease in crime rates about 20 years later, when the first generation of lead-free babies had grown up?

So you see where I'm going with this: Could the startling violence we've been seeing among cops
1. The number of people killed by police in 2014: 1,149, according to Mapping Police Violence, a research collaborative collecting data on police killings nationwide.
2. The number of people killed by police so far in 2015: 470, according to the Guardian....
7. The likelihood that a black person killed by police, like 22-year-old Rekia Boyd (killed in Chicago), will be unarmed: Twice as likely as a white person killed by police, according to the Guardian.
8. The group as likely as black Americans to be killed by police, according to 1999-2013 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Native Americans — like 30-year-old Allen Locke, who was killed by police in Rapid City, South Dakota, the day after he attended a #NativeLivesMatter Anti-Police Brutality Rally in December 2014....
22. The most common form of police misconduct in 2010: excessive force, according to the Cato Institute. 
23. The second most common form of police misconduct in 2010: sexual assault. Oklahoma City police Officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, for example, faces charges for allegedly sexually assaulting 13 women.
24. The hefty estimated costs associated with civil judgments and settlements related to misconduct-related cases in 2010: $346,512,800, according to the Cato Institute.  
—have something to do with their extra exposure to lead in weapons training?

One suggestive little factoid: One of the worst places for exposing police to lead is Baltimore County, now famous as the home of some of the most violent police in the country.
In February 2014, after officials with Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) inspected the gun range, they found 27 violations, 16 related to lead. It was the first safety inspection of Baltimore County’s nearly half-century-old facility, they said.

Baltimore County police set a record — the most lead violations for a law-enforcement agency in the past decade, according to a Times analysis of available federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration records.

Maryland inspectors found problems with poor ventilation and inadequate cleaning at the Lutherville range. And in talking to several Baltimore County firearms instructors, inspectors learned that the lead problems were getting worse.
This could be a real thing. And then I started thinking about the Second Amendment Crazies: they spend a lot of time in indoor gun ranges as well. Is anybody doing their blood work?

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