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Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Volume 2012, Article ID 617236, 33 pages
Review Article

Distribution and Fate of Military Explosives and Propellants in Soil: A Review

Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306, USA

Received 30 November 2011; Revised 26 February 2012; Accepted 19 March 2012

Academic Editor: Jeffrey L. Howard

Copyright © 2012 John Pichtel. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Energetic materials comprise both explosives and propellants. When released to the biosphere, energetics are xenobiotic contaminants which pose toxic hazards to ecosystems, humans, and other biota. Soils worldwide are contaminated by energetic materials from manufacturing operations; military conflict; military training activities at firing and impact ranges; and open burning/open detonation (OB/OD) of obsolete munitions. Energetic materials undergo varying degrees of chemical and biochemical transformation depending on the compounds involved and environmental factors. This paper addresses the occurrence of energetic materials in soils including a discussion of their fates after contact with soil. Emphasis is placed on the explosives 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX), and octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine (HMX), and the propellant ingredients nitroglycerin (NG), nitroguanidine (NQ), nitrocellulose (NC), 2,4-dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT), and perchlorate.