LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News Volume 13 Number 4, June 2013, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editorial Team: Elizabeth O’Brien, Zac Gethin-Damon, Hitesh Lohani, Shristi Lohani and David Ratcliffe

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Environmental Risks Arising from Changes in Ammunition Materials

Copyright © 2013 – Cylenchar Limited Dr Peter J Hurley – Cylenchar Limited UK

Does Steel Shot Reduce Environmental Risk?

Having considered the nature of the hazard from our potential contaminant, let’s consider the wider issue of application to our range with regard to risk. There have been several studies of the behaviour of lead in ranges. Worldwide data suggests that on mature ranges legacy lead in surface soils can reach levels of 10 gram per Kg. Early studies had concluded that lead shot could survive in the soil conditions for 10,000 years and be largely retained on-site.  However, experience tells me that at such levels of lead unless the surface is permeable and subsurface geology is clay rich, lead migration problems are likely to occur.

Steel has been widely promulgated as a ‘non-toxic’ alternative to lead. And in some cases, local regulators have, perhaps naively, insisted that ranges cease firing lead altogether. I am not a shooter. I’m an environmentalist and a scientist. I fully believe that lead is harmful and that lead shot poses a significant risk to waterfowl, but I have grave reservations of the universality of the switch to steel and other lead alternatives in all shooting applications.

Let’s take a closer look at the impact of shooting steel, and in particular at shooting steel over lead. Illustrated is a shooting range situated in Florida. The range is circa 50 years old and unfortunately sited adjacent a wetland wildfowl reserve. The local regulator has imposed a mandatory prohibition on shooting lead. The photo, whilst not an empirical study, illustrates the overview of anecdotal observations of range owners. Whilst both lead and steels shot types, when concentrated in principal region of shot fall, will adversely impact vegetation, where steel is used we do observe greater impact. Here we can see from the grass rhizomes that normally run within the soil thatch, are now fully exposed and shrivelled. As this is from the centre of the shot fall region I think we can take it that we are not observing wear from a high level of foot fall. Whilst the particular picture does not have a detailed scale (apart from the ubiquitous dropped pen), we can see the obviously corroding lead and steel shot. We can also just make out that some of the lead shot has corroded to below 1mm. (NB: The narrow gold band on the pen is circa 1.5mm wide.) It is evident that lead is corroding at a very significant rate. The increased lead shot corrosion is fully expected and we can understand the mechanisms of the shot interaction, but what’s happening in the soil? I would like to put to you a summary of what we believe is happening on this site, and likely happening on very many other sites where steel is now being fired over legacy lead, with consideration of the likely impact on environmental risk.


Environmental Risks Arising from Changes in Ammunition Materials
The Contaminant – Metallic Lead?
Does Steel Shot Reduce Environmental Risk?
European Soils – Typical Profile and Predicted Impact of Steel Shot
Site Risk! - Added Pathways
Mitigation of Site Risk

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