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CPD’s Evendale gun range sparks health concerns

CINCINNATI — Even though Hamilton County is working to move the Cincinnati Police Department’s gun range in Evendale, people in Lincoln Heights, Woodlawn and Evendale are still being impacted by the sound of gunshots.

Syretha Brown has lived in Lincoln Heights her entire life. She raised her children here and is now watching her 11 grandchildren grow up in her hometown. For the longest time, she had no idea why her son didn’t want to play outside.

“As a little boy he wouldn’t go outside, and I never understood why," Brown said. "He kept saying ‘no, it’s a war zone out there,” and I’m like boy it’s not a war-zone, but I never realized or even related it to the gun range until I started working with the heights movement."

To hear the sound of gunshots coming from the shooting range had become background noise to her.

“It was alarming to him, but not to me,” she said.

Dr. Brian Earl is an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati. He studies the impacts of exposure to noise. In 2020, he was invited by community leaders in the Village of Lincoln Heights to run some tests on the noise level in the immediate area. He was shocked how loud the gunshots were.

“I could feel the reflex in my ear trigger based on the level of the noise. We have a reflex in our ears that will trigger at those high intensities and I could feel that in my ears, so it was high enough to trigger that reflex and it went on for a couple of minutes,” Earl said.

On a sound level meter, the sound of gunshots hit about 85 decibels.

“Anything over 85 decibels at a consistent sound over a period of time has an impact on one's overall health,” said Renee Mahaffery-Harris, president and CEO at the Center for Closing the Health Cap.

“It’s a quality of life concern and definitely becomes a health concern based on other studies that have looked at long-term exposure,” Earl said.

Earl is also concerned that too many people have become accustomed to the sound of gunshots like Brown.

“Going back to the idea of an auditory reflex, if we don’t react to this loud sound or if children don’t react to this loud sound maybe something has changed in their hearing development or their reaction to loud sounds is different if this exposure is going on,” Earl said.

Mahaffey-Harris is also concerned that lead could possibly be in the soil.

“Bullets are lead-core wrapped with copper, as a bullet travels down the gun it releases a spray of lead particles into the air and so those are facts,” she said.

She said that to her knowledge the soil at the gun range has not been tested.

At the Hamilton County Commissioner meeting on Jan. 31, Commissioner President Alicia Reece said the CPD gun range is the biggest environmental injustice in the community.

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