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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Heavy Metals in the Environment

Weathering of Lead Bullets and Their Environmental Effects at Outdoor Shooting Ranges


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 2, p. 526-534
    Received: Apr 22, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): lqma@ufl.edu
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  1. Xinde Caoa,
  2. Lena Q. Ma *a,
  3. Ming Chenb,
  4. Donald W. Hardisona and
  5. Willie G. Harrisa
  1. a Soil and Water Science Dep., Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611
    b Everglades Research and Education Center, Univ. of Florida, Belle Glade, FL 33430


Lead contamination at shooting range soils is of great environmental concern. This study focused on weathering of lead bullets and its effect on the environment at five outdoor shooting ranges in Florida, USA. Soil, plant, and water samples were collected from the ranges and analyzed for total Pb and/or toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP) Pb. Selected bullet and berm soil samples were mineralogically analyzed with X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. Hydrocerussite [Pb3(CO3)2(OH)2] was found in both the weathered crusts and berm soils in the shooting ranges with alkaline soil pH. For those shooting ranges with acidic soil pH, hydrocerussite, cerussite (PbCO3), and small amount of massicot (PbO) were predominantly present in the weathered crusts, but no lead carbonate mineral was found in the soils. However, hydroxypyromorphite [(Pb10(PO4)6(OH)2] was formed in a P-rich acidic soil, indicating that hydroxypyromorphite can be a stable mineral in P-rich shooting range soil. Total Pb and TCLP Pb in the soils from all five shooting ranges were significantly elevated with the highest total Pb concentration of 1.27 to 4.84% (w/w) in berm soils. Lead concentrations in most sampled soils exceeded the USEPA's critical level of 400 mg Pb kg−1 soil. Lead was not detected in subsurface soils in most ranges except for one, where elevated Pb up to 522 mg kg−1 was observed in the subsurface, possibly due to enhanced solubilization of organic Pb complexes at alkaline soil pH. Elevated total Pb concentrations in bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] (up to 806 mg kg−1 in the aboveground parts) and in surface water (up to 289 μg L−1) were observed in some ranges. Ranges with high P content or high cation exchange capacity showed lower Pb mobility. Our research clearly demonstrates the importance of properly managing shooting ranges to minimize adverse effects of Pb on the environment.

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Copyright © 2003. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.32:526–534.