2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 15:29:16 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Virginia Tech Researchers Study Effects on Environment of Lead from B

Virginia Tech researchers study effects on environment of lead from 

24 MARCH 2000 AT 00:00 ET US
Contact: James Craig
PR CONTACT: Sally Harris
Virginia Tech


Virginia Tech researchers study effects on environment of lead from 
bullets BLACKSBURG, Va., March 24 - Two studies done at Virginia Tech 
showed very little lead damage to the environment from bullets left on 
battlefields or on a carefully designed shotgun/rifle range. Their 
findings were presented at the Southeastern Section Geological Sciences 
Association Meeting.

In the first study, David H. Edwards, a graduate student in Virginia 
Tech's Department of Geological Sciences, and several other scientists 
studied the Blacksburg Shooting Range located three miles north of town 
in the Jefferson National Forest. The range was built and is maintained 
by the U.S. Forest Service and is composed of a rifle range and a 
separate shotgun range.  While high lead concentrations have been found 
on the range itself, relatively small amounts of lead have been found in 
the water on the range and no water contamination has been found off the 
range, Edwards said. "The lead is quickly weathered into stable lead 
minerals, and that minimizes the uptake of lead by groundwater," he 

However, the scientists found that damage by shot impacts to the trees 
at the end of the range is extensive and many trees are dying as much as 
140 meters beyond the range, particularly in the first 90 meters.

"The range was constructed to minimize the effects of lead 
concentrations and serves a useful purpose for people who enjoy 
recreational shooting," Edwards said. Firearm vandalism to public 
property has been significantly reduced and the two tons of lead that 
would have scattered throughout the region has been concentrated and 
neutralized on the range. This is a useful service provided by the U.S. 
Forest Service and a carefully managed recreational opportunity for 
Virginia residents."

The scientists involved in the study in addition to Edwards were James 
R. Craig, geological sciences; J. Donald Rimstidt, geological sciences; 
Patrick F. Scanlon of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences in the College of 
Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Thomas K. Collins of the 
Washington-Jefferson National Forest.

In the second study, James R. Craig of Virginia Tech's geological 
sciences department and several other scientists looked at the 
possibility of lead contamination from the bullets left behind on 
battlefields. "The countless battles throughout history have spread 
thousands of tons of lead bullets on every continent," the researchers 
said. "Today the concern of battlefield contamination has even led the 
military to turn to Œgreen' bullets. The question remains, 'What happens 
to all of that lead on those battlefields?'"

The simplest answer for most sites, the researchers found, is that the 
lead is still there, and much is in the form in which it was fired 
originally."  They studied a variety of battlefields of differing ages, 
from early 18th century to the present, and in locations as varied as 
marine sand, deserts, coastal plain swamps, and uplands. They found that 
most of the lead is quite well preserved because it forms a protective 
coating of relatively insoluble oxide, carbonate, sulfate, or sulfide 

"Lead metal dissolves readily, but once it oxidizes in a soil, the 
insoluble coating...retard decomposition," the scientists said.

The scientists in the study in addition to Craig are Rimstidt, Robert C. 
Whisonant of the Radford University geology department, and Scanlon.

The presentations (numbers 7106 and 2139) will be presented on Friday, 
March 24, at 3:20 p.m. in the Lightsey Conference Center Room 217 and 
10:40 a.m. in Room 220, respectively, at the Geological Society of 
American's Section Meetings in Charleston, S.C. Approximately 650 
geoscientists are expected to attend.
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