Current issues

Contamination from shooting ranges

On this page:

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA), at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is currently undertaking a desktop assessment of potential environmental and human health risks posed by outdoor shooting ranges across Victoria.

EPA’s investigation began following the discovery of contamination at the North Wangaratta Recreation Reserve in May 2016.

The outcomes from the assessment so far have identified a number of sites that may require further investigation. The level of investigation depends on several factors such as a range’s proximity to houses, open spaces and waterways, and the type of soil found at any given location.

EPA is working with other relevant agencies and gun clubs on a priority basis to ensure any major risks are appropriately managed in a timely manner.

Sites currently under investigation include:

Work is under way to determine whether the prioritised sites have created any offsite contamination from their activities.

EPA acknowledges that shooting ranges represent an important pastime for many people, and clubs are often without significant resources and generally run by volunteers. EPA will work with its partner government agencies and with the shooting range clubs to protect the community and environment while ensuring shooting is sustainable.


Q&A on contamination from shooting ranges + Expand all Collapse all

  • What are the potential contaminants found at shooting ranges?

    Shooting ranges (clay target ranges, rifle ranges, pistol ranges, and field and game ranges) can in some instances cause lead (from lead shot) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs – chemicals found in some types of clay targets) to contaminate land, surface water and groundwater.

  • Why wasn’t this issue identified earlier?

    EPA is currently undertaking a desktop risk assessment of outdoor shooting ranges across Victoria following the discovery of contamination at the North Wangaratta Recreation Reserve in May 2016.

  • How did EPA conduct its desktop risk assessment of gun clubs?

    The initial methodology used to assess Victorian outdoor ranges was automated, based on aerial photographs, land-use data, groundwater data and the location of sensitive receptors (such as recreation reserves and waterways), which was then confirmed by manual desktop (computer-based) assessment.

  • What has the assessment found?

    The outcomes from the assessment will identify any sites that may require further investigation. The level of investigation will depend on a number of factors such as a range’s distance from houses, open spaces and waterways, and soil type.

  • What are the potential health risks from lead and PAH exposure?

    Anyone concerned about their health should consult their doctor.

    The hazard posed by PAHs (found in some types of clay targets) varies between compounds, with some being persistent in the environment and having a potential to bio-accumulate in food webs. A number of PAHs are classified as carcinogenic to humans and can be absorbed through ingestion, inhalation or skin contact. Potential health effects are largely linked to levels of exposure.

    Lead exposure may occur from ingestion of contaminated soil or dust or from drinking contaminated water. People with elevated blood lead levels rarely show obvious symptoms. However, exposure can cause:

    • headaches, tiredness, weakness and joint pain
    • reduced brain function, including memory loss and difficulty concentrating
    • heart, blood and blood pressure problems
    • damaged kidneys
    • reduced fertility.

    Infants, children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. Lead can affect young children’s brain development and their ability to learn.

    Pregnant women can pass lead on to their unborn babies during pregnancy or to an infant during breastfeeding.

    For more information about lead exposure, see Lead exposure and poisoning on the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel.

Page last updated on 20 Dec 2016