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.
Craig and his colleagues plan to plant grasses in TNT contaminated soil to suck up the explosives. While the sheep munch away, the bacteria in their digestive tract take care of the rest. Craig's lab is testing the grazers on soil from a military base. He estimates that a flock of 20 could clear an acre of grass in a month, and completely rid it of munitions residue in less than three years.
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."
Sssss ... boom ... baaaaa!
"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."
This could mean that the sheep digested the TNT completely, or it could mean that the TNT compounds were NOT digested at all, and the sheep have a gut full of TNT. BOOM!
I'm sure animal rights groups are already drafting a complaint for the lawsuit.
I wonder if you 'click' (what ever that would mean) the sheep enough times they'll blow up like in a Blizzard game.....?
Better not let these critters pass wind near a spark or open flame.
Ever hear the term "Ramjet"?
Come on...Admit it...you're smiling..
Okay, but not all munitions used by the military are composed out of TNT. What are those sites going to be cleaned with? Camels?
I don't pretend to know the exact molecular components of TNT...but things like PETN or Comp B differ from TNT so would it still be digested and broken down into almost harmless matter?
Where can I buy ribs made of these sheep? I want to give them to my brother!
you know i still want to know where they hell they come up with these ideas
"hey cap what are we going to do with all this TNT"
"hmmm lest let a bunch of sheep into the field and see what happens"
i mean come on really sheep... next we are going to hear how we are fighting wars with exploding sheep
Now terrorists can widen their wardrobes. In addition to explosive vests, they can wear truly dynamite sweaters!
I worked on the team at OSU that developed a feasibility plan for Craig, the scientist who discovered this. (I still have our research notes).
Craig was studying numerous bacteria (hundreds, if I remember correctly) when he found this one. Not sure how he got the idea to apply it to TNT.
rpenri: you make an excellent point and you are correct. The idea was to apply for a government research grant and then look for more bacteria that would breakdown other chemicals.