Christopher J. Schmitt 0
0 US Geological Survey, Columbia Environmental Research Center , 4200 New Haven Road, Columbia, MO 65203 , USA
Heavy metal contamination at shooting ranges is well
documented (e.g., Heier et al. 2009; Islam et al. 2016).
Primarily lead, but also copper, zinc, and antimony often occur
at high concentrations in shooting range soils; cadmium,
nickel, silver, and arsenic may also be present (Cao et al.
2003; Islam et al. 2016). These metals represent a
potential threat to human health and wildlife. Although much of
the lead and other metals remains in the soil (Clausen et al.
2011), some metals can also contaminate groundwater and
surface water and thereby threaten aquatic life (Heier et al.
2009). Results of a study published in the current issue of
the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and
Toxicology (Staufer et al. 2017) indicate that mercury
contamination may also be an issue at shooting ranges, which has not
been previously reported.
Staufer et al. ( 2017) collected and analyzed soil samples
for mercury and other metals at ranges of difering ages in
Switzerland and found that mercury concentrations were
elevated (>500 µg/kg) at older ranges. Concentrations were
greatest near the shooting positions and tended to decrease
with distance downrange, which led Staufer et al. ( 2017)
to conclude that the mercury resulted from the
historical use of ammunition ignited by mercury-based primers.
Mercury(II) fulminate was the ignition source in
percussion caps and metallic cartridge primers from the 1830s
until the mid-1900s (Beck et al. 2007). Modern primers do
not contain mercury, but older ammunition continued to be
expended into the 1960s.
Mercury in soil can be transformed by sulfate- and
iron-reducing bacteria to more mobile and highly toxic
methylated forms that can bioaccumulate and biomagnify
(e.g., Rieder et al. 2011; Kwon et al. 2015). The indings
of Staufer et al. ( 2017) indicate that mercury represents a
previously unrecognized environmental hazard to consider
when remediating and monitoring older ranges.
Beck W , Evers J , Göbel M , Oehlinger G , Klapötke TM ( 2007 ) The crystal and molecular structure of mercury fulminate (knallquecksilber) . Z Anorg Allg Chem 633 : 1417 - 1422
Cao X , Ma LQ , Chen M , Hardison DW Jr, Harris WG ( 2003 ) Lead transformation and distribution in the soils of shooting ranges in Florida , USA. Sci Total Environ 307 : 179 - 189
Clausen JL , Bostick B , Korte N ( 2011 ) Migration of lead in surface water, pore water, and groundwater with a focus on iring ranges . Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 41 : 1397 - 1448
Heier LS , Lien IB , Strømseng AE , Ljønes M , Rosseland BO ( 2009 ) Speciation of lead, copper, zinc and antimony in water draining a shooting range-Time dependant metal accumulation and biomarker responses in brown trout ( Salmo trutta L.). Sci Total Environ 407 : 4047 - 4055
Islam MN , Nguyen XP , Jung H-Y , Park J-H ( 2016 ) Chemical speciation and quantitative evaluation of heavy metal pollution hazards in two army shooting range backstop soils . Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 96 : 179 - 185
Kwon SY , Blum JD , Nadelhofer KJ , Dvonch JT , Tsui MT-K ( 2015 ) Isotopic study of mercury sources and transfer between a freshwater lake and adjacent forest food web . Sci Total Environ 532 : 220 - 229
Rieder SR , Brunner I , Horvat M , Jacobs A , Frey B ( 2011 ) Accumulation of mercury and methylmercury by mushrooms and earthworms from forest soils . Environ Pollut 159 : 2861 - 2869
Staufer M , Pignolet A , Alvarado JAC ( 2017 ) Persistent mercury con - tamination in shooting range soils: legacy from former primers . Bull Environ Contam Toxicol . doi:10.1007/s00128- 016 - 1976 -3