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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

Use of Weapons in Wars Slowly Killing the Environment

MEXICO CITY – The use of weapons in wars throughout history is causing a slow loss of ecological equilibrium because of the substances they discharge into the atmosphere, physicist Epifanio Cruz told EFE.

The researcher at the Nuclear Sciences Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) said that after major wars, international organizations have studied their environmental effects and found alterations in the ecosystem from the soil to the seas to the atmosphere.

After the Balkan conflicts between 1991-2001 in a disintegrating Yugoslavia, a United Nations committee warned that the arms industry not only uses lead in its ammunition but also waste material from the nuclear industry.

“It was proved that ammunition was being made for artillery and machine guns, for example, that was contaminated with radioactive residues, chiefly from uranium. And that caused their detonations to pollute the environment,” the expert said.

Another case evaluated by the UN was the 1990-1991 Gulf War, in which, according to Cruz, similar results were reported.

Based on those findings, he said the physical residue of arms used in combat remains in the soil, in the subsoil, in the water and in the air, causing damaging effects on the environment and on living beings, both animal and vegetable.

But beyond the wars that use conventional weapons, the expert looks to wars of the future, much faster in their devastation and with no possible winners: nuclear wars.

“If 1,550 or 2,000 atomic bombs are exploded, that’s enough to wipe civilization off the face of the earth,” said the scientist, adding that such a situation would be a “nuclear winter.”

But beyond these hypothetical scenarios, up to now some 2,000 nuclear tests have been carried out around the world since 1945 when the first atomic bomb test was made at Alamogordo, New Mexico, less than a year before the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the final stages of World War II.

Those tests, despite being controlled, also have consequences on the environment in the long term, such as the mutation of trees, birds and grass.

“Nonetheless, nature is very wise, it has a lot of resistance to environmental changes and will always manage to regenerate itself. But it would take a period of between 50 and 70 years,” Cruz said.

 

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