Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No Bomb Squad Available? Call Out the Sheep.

Sheep Help Scientists Clean Up Explosives Residue

A team of scientists is feeding TNT to a flock of sheep. A. Morrie Craig, a veterinary scientist at Oregon State University, has found that the cud-chewing mammals can efficiently clean up explosives-contaminated soil, of which there are 1.3 million tons throughout the U.S. TNT and other explosives from military munitions training and the remnants of old factories remain in the ground for decades. This residue rarely poses an immediate health threat, but officials at the Department of Defense fear that it could seep into groundwater or poison plants (which has happened before). Conventional cleanup techniques, such as incinerating the soil, are expensive and time-consuming. Sheep will work for free.

In 2004, Craig discovered that the bacteria in a sheep’s stomach that help digest cellulose can also rapidly convert TNT into a harmless compound. In recent experiments, he and researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture fed sheep TNT for three weeks and found that it broke down so completely that no traces of it or any related compounds remained in the animals’ feces.
 Explosive sheep $#!* would be quite a nuisance, after all.
Craig points out that even if a TNT-eating sheep’s meat found its way onto a barbecue, it could never explode or cause health problems: “The ingested TNT is broken down into small molecules that are in no way similar to the original compound.”
What I don't understand is how the sheep are cleaning the ground.  Sheep eat grass, not dirt (well, maybe a little dirt with the grass), but not a large fraction of the contaminated soil present.  Are they telling me that most of the TNT in contaminated ground is present in the grass?  Why not just mow it and burn it then?

Instead of spoiling a perfectly good lamb chop.

1 comment:

  1. Bahahahahahahahaha! Poor sheep. That might have been my first "girlfriend".