Laying groundwork in WA.

Discussion in 'Legal & Political Archive' started by timac, Oct 19, 2014.

  1. timac

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    More Calif. laws coming soon, if this starts getting more traction.

    Editorial: Ban lead in ammunition to protect those who frequent gun ranges, and their families
    At gun ranges awash in lead, workers need stronger workplace protection.

    Seattle Times Editorial


    GETTING the lead out of commonly used products — from gasoline and paint to children’s toys and lead solder in canned foods — has been a consensus value of public health for decades. Lead, in a word, is toxic.

    But unlike lead-based paint, or toys, there is far less public discussion about the public and environmental costs of lead exposure from firearm use. Nearly 70,000 metric tons of lead annually go into ammunition, second only to the amount of lead used in batteries.

    A groundbreaking Seattle Times series, which begins in Sunday’s paper, should spark a public reassessment of the costs of lead ammunition. It describes workers at gun ranges across the country routinely being exposed to wildly unsafe lead levels, and bringing the toxic residue home to their children, who are particularly susceptible to lead’s toxicity.

    The three-part series, by reporters Christine Willmsen, Lewis Kamb and Justin Mayo, should draw readers to a clear conclusion: a ban on lead in ammunition. Requiring non-lead ammunition — which is already available — would eliminate the risk for gun-range workers and for firearms enthusiasts, and for children of both.

    The U.S. military has committed to making the switch to unleaded ammunition, and has found “green” bullets are just as effective. California will ban lead in hunting ammunition by 2019, in part to save the California condor, which is vulnerable to lead poisoning.

    In the short term, The Times’ series should force policymakers in this Washington and the other Washington to take action.

    First, there should be a reconsideration of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard for lead exposure in the workplace. Written in 1978, it does not reflect known hazards for workers’ exposure to lead. An OSHA administrator acknowledged to The Times that the standard is “outdated.”

    Current policy says a worker should be removed from the workplace only after lead levels reach six times the amount that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as “elevated.” That’s absurd.

    Second, Washington state should aggressively review its own standard for allowable lead exposure on the job site. Dr. David Fleming, the former director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, told Gov. Jay Inslee last year that the state’s current standard “puts workers and their families at risk,” and does not reflect “our current understanding of lead’s health effects.”

    But the state Department of Labor and Industries, which would enforce such a change, declined to act, saying it wanted to wait to see what California does first. That’s weak leadership.

    For inspiration, Inslee’s administration should read the story of 5-year-old Serenity Romo, who was poisoned by the lead that her father, Manny, brought home from his construction job at a lead-ridden Bellevue gun range. Manny Romo’s lead levels were so high his family had to abandon their Auburn apartment and many of their belongings, including Serenity’s books.

    The politics of guns are incendiary enough that even common-sense limitations — such as background checks — can become tangled in competing readings of the Second Amendment.

    But gun enthusiasts and gun-control advocates should be able to rally around a simple idea: A job at a gun range shouldn’t make you, and your kids, sick.

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