TUMWATER, Wash. -- The Department of Labor and Industries have fined a Bellevue gun shop $23,480 for exposing workers to health hazards caused by lead exposure.
Wade's Eastside Gun Shop in Bellevue was cited for 17 violations of workers safety and health rules at the business's indoor firing range.
The department said the exposures happened late last summer and fall when the gun range was undergoing extensive remodeling. Construction and demolition inside the range posed greater exposure hazard due to the exposure to airborne and settled lead dust. Without further precautions to control the hazards, lead poisoning is possible.
Multiple workers of the gun range claimed they were exposed to dangerous amounts of lead. L & I inspected the range after blood tests of several employees indicated elevated blood-lead levels, along with workers employed by the contractor and sub-contractors.
Tests found several workers had blood-lead levels nigh enough to require "medical removal" from the workplace.
Roberto Sanchez was an employee at Wade's from 2000-2011. He claims that in 2008, he was told to help excavate the large dirt backstop in the range that was filled with spent bullets and lead. After three weeks of work, Sanchez says he had to go to the hospital.
"I had aches and started getting nauseous and headaches," he said. "The last major thing was that my kidneys hurt so bad, I couldn't get out of bed."
Medical records show Sanchez, an Army veteran, had blood lead levels eight times higher than what is considered safe by the Centers for Disease Control.
Sanchez went back to work in the showroom at Wade's after the contamination and said he still has full body aches, erectile dysfunction and requires medication.
Officials say blood-lead levels normally drop when a person is removed from the exposure. However, because the lead deposits in the bone and the brain, it may also contribute to long-term health effects.