Accession Number:



Microbial Degradation of RDX and HMX

Descriptive Note:

Corporate Author:


Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



The present SERDP funded project CU1213 responds directly to the original SERDP statement of need CUSON-01-05 to address the cleanup of the two powerful and widely used explosives hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine RDX and octahydro-1,3,5,7- tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine HMX. Both of these cyclic nitramine explosives are used extensively by the military and they are released to the environment during manufacturing, testing and training, demilitarization and open burningopen detonation OBOD. Such activities lead to the contamination of surface and subsurface soil. Also, because of their solubility 50 mgL and 5 mgL for RDX and HMX at 25 C, respectively in water and their weak binding affinity for soil, both RDX and HMX migrate through subsurface soil and cause groundwater contamination. One of the most recent examples is the well-publicized contamination of the aquifer at the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod. Cyclic nitramine explosives are toxic to aquatic organisms Sunahara et al., 1999 Talmage et al., 1999, earthworms Robidoux et al., 2000, 2001, mammals Talmage et al., 1999 and human monocytes Bruns-Nagel et al., 1999, and above all, they are also carcinogenic. The toxicity of cyclic nitramines necessitates that contaminated soil and groundwater be remediated using cost effective and environmentally safe processes such as bioremediation. Incineration is not a desirable remediation option because of high costs and hazardous emissions. Several studies reported biodegradation of RDX and HMX under both anaerobic and aerobic conditions using anaerobic sludge McCormick et al., 1981, consortia Funk et al., 1993, or specific isolates Kitts et al., 1994 Binks et al., 1995 Young et al., 1997a Coleman et al., 1998 and Boopathy et al., 1998. Despite these early efforts, there is little existing information regarding ring cleavage products and the enzymes that lead to their formation.

Subject Categories:

  • Biochemistry
  • Ammunition and Explosives
  • Solid Wastes and Pollution and Control
  • Water Pollution and Control

Distribution Statement: