The Effects of Lead Ammunition on Soil

Lead ammunition has been used for centuries and the behavior of the lead metal in the environment is known. Its aging and wreathing behavior in soils is known.

Lead metal slowly forms compounds like oxides, hydroxides and sulfides depending on the soil chemistry and the precipitation. These are poorly soluble and do not leach ions readily, meaning that lead shot and projectiles are not generally bioaccessible in soils. Metals like zinc and nickel form compounds that are soluble and can release ions to the surface water, while for other metals very little is currently known about their environmental hazard profiles.

It is crucial to underline that lead enjoys one of the highest recycling rates of all materials in common use today, higher than glass or newspaper recycling rates. It is also the most recycled metal of all those commonly used. This is a result of lead’s fundamental properties, which comprehend the characteristic of being particularly economic to collect and recycled.

Additionally, shooting ranges are designed and constructed in a way to ensure that the projectiles fired are always confined within the immediate range area and the relative remnant parts do not create hazard to health and the environment. These ranges have clearly defined boundary outside of which it is not possible for lead ammunition to deposit, and are equipped with high retaining wall, earth mound, berms, sandbag barrier or specially-designed funnel-shaped traps to easily recover lead and contain as much as possible the soil contamination.

Additional good management measures to recover and recycle accumulated lead are also in place, as well as treatment of soil or draining ditches with lime or phosphate to reduce the availability of mobile lead.