Sunday, March 1, 2015

Soil Contamination at Shooting Ranges





Shooting ranges have been at the center of studies about the different things that can lead to soil contamination. Studies have concluded that of the metals that are part of the bullets, lead is the largest contaminant. Lead bullets are the top choice amongst individuals attending shooting ranges because of low cost, availability, and performance. Shooters do not have to use lead though, but unfortunately many of the "non toxic" alternatives also can cause soil contamination. Some of these alternatives include a steel shot, with iron that corrodes 5 times faster than lead, which also includes other heavy metal impurities. As well as frangible ammunition, which contain compressed, powdered metals which too are likely to undergo corrosion similar to that of lead. 

Lead Ammunition can cause many effects to the soil it is coming into contact with. First off, when it comes in contact with soil, it corrodes similar to a car rusting. The corrosion products dissolve into soil water and the soil soaks up the lead. A pellet would take over 10,000 years to dissolve in soil. 

The effects of lead in soil vary, it can lead to in humans damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior problems and learning disabilities, reproductive problems, memory problems, and muscle and joint pain. In animals it can lead to death when they graze in the area. Root craps are at risk from absorption from soil. From this, it is advised that crops (in particular root crops) that are intended for humans have to be lead tested. 

What is being done to fix this? Currently there is not a cheap answer. There are 1813 outdoor firing ranges registered, and according to the Environmental Working Group, fire ranges put out more lead into the environment than any other industry (excluding metal mining and manufacturing). Solutions are trying to be figured out to fix this lead contamination into soil, as of now a type of remedy that is being tested is using a plant as a lead extract. Researches have found that certain plants accumulate and can tolerate certain heavy metals. These plants should hypothetically be able to reduce lead levels. Some plants that have shown promise are Indian Mustard and corn and pea plants. 


Tessa Millhollin

Sources: 
http://www.lead.org.au/fs/shootingranges.pdf
http://www.princeton.edu/~rmizzo/firingrange.htm

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