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Assessing Environmental Safety of Potential Munitions Compounds to Be Subject of Proposed ASTM International Standard

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Significant effort and resources are dedicated to finding replacements for military-related munitions constituents that have the potential to be environmentally threatening. However, there are currently no standards available for evaluating potentially "greener" alternatives to such materials early in the research, development, testing and evaluation stages.

A proposed new standard currently being developed by Committee E47 on Biological Effects and Environmental Fate will assist Army research chemists in prioritizing a range of potential alternatives according to environmental, safety and occupational health concerns early in the process. The proposed standard, WK9121, Assessment of Environmental Health Impacts in the Research, Development, Testing and Engineering of New Munitions, is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E47.02 on Terrestrial Assessment and Toxicology.

Mark Johnson, U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine, sites RDX (1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine) and percholorate as two examples of compounds that have been found in the groundwater and threaten to restrict range operations at some military facilities. The proposed standard will aid researchers in finding alternatives to compounds such as these.

"WK9121 will be used within the Army Environmental Quality Program, Ordnance Program, to help prioritize alternatives and to ascertain whether these alternatives show potential as being less harmful to the health of the environment and humans," says Johnson. "It has applications for other programs and the concepts could be used by industry when asking similar environmental questions."

Among other areas in which the proposed standard will have applications is the field of energetics. "The U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command will also use this proposed standard for maturing, developing, and transitioning new energetic materials," say Johnson. "It has applications for use throughout the Department of Defense, defense contractors and in the civilian energetics industry."

Interested parties are encouraged to become involved in the further development of WK9121. Because assessing the environmental viability of compounds can be a complex process, Johnson says the subcommittee is using a multidisciplinary approach that includes risk assessment, toxicology, fate and transport, biology and chemistry. "We hope to involve experts in these fields to assist in putting together a standard that has the right balance between usefulness and accuracy," says Johnson.

For further technical information, contact Mark Johnson, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. (phone: 410/436-5081; mark.s.johnson@us.army.mil). Committee E47 will meet Nov. 11-12, in conjunction with the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry meeting in Baltimore, Md. For membership or meeting details, contact Scott Orthey, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9730; sorthey@astm.org).

 

Release #7234