Production of dioxins and furans from the burning of excess gun propellant


  1. Poulin, I.
  2. Thiboutot, S.
  3. Brochu, S.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Valcartier, Valcartier QUE (CAN)
The burning of bags of excess gun propellant left over after an artillery exercise is a common practice on Canadian Forces Base (CFB) ranges and training areas. This process is carried out by aligning and burning the bags on the ground. This operation is known to leave significant quantities of energetic residues. It was also suspected of producing, among its combustion products, dioxins and furans, two structurally and chemically related chlorinated compounds known to be toxic and persistent in the environment. At CFB Petawawa, dioxins and furans were detected in some soil and water samples. The work reported here was aimed at studying the potential production of dioxins and furans from the combustion of gun propellants using a flare as an igniter. The results indicated that this production was not related to the combustion pattern, chemical composition or mass of the gun propellant, but to the presence of the igniter. The accepted procedure published by the Canadian Forces requires the use of a railroad fusee or a flare (like the warning flares used on roads at night) as the ignition source for the gun propellant. This trial should be replicated, and if further trials confirm that the railroad fusee is the source of the dioxins and furans, the disposal procedure for excess gun propellant by open burning should be modified.

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Report Number
DRDC-VALCARTIER-TR-2009-365 — Technical Report
Date of publication
01 Jan 2011
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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