Thursday, September 19, 2013

Chemical Warfare is another threat to the environment.

Its impact is nearly everlasting.

By

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Earlier it was controversial report of use of the Depleted Uranium where thousands and thousands of people, including many children, died after the war in Bosnia from the use of depleted uranium projectiles. Completely healthy people who have lived or are still living in locations were targeted missiles out of the blue they got cancer or leukemia and after a longer or shorter disease died. Depleted uranium has been used in at least the last four wars Gulf War 1, Bosnia and Kosovo in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Gulf War 2. The last two of the four wars, took place in 2001 (Afghanistan) and 2003 (Iraq).

Now the latest news is about use of other weapon of mass destruction on the humans. According to UN report there is “clear and convincing evidence” that chemical weapons were used in the August 21 attack in Syria. The conclusion is that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale.

The environmental, chemical and medical samples collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used in the Ghouta area of Damascus.
The report said surface-to-air rockets containing the nerve gas sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyan and Zamalka in the Ghouta area of Damascus. It does not say which parties in the conflict used the weapons.
Rockets and fragments were found to contain sarin. Several surface-to-surface rockets capable of delivering significant chemical payloads were identified and recorded at the investigated sites.

Close to the impact sites, in the area where people were affected, inspectors collected 30 soil and environmental samples — far more than any previous U.N. investigation — and in a majority of the samples, "the environment was found to be contaminated by sarin," its by-products, and "other relevant chemicals, such as stabilizers."

Blood, urine and hair samples from 34 patients who had signs of poisoning by a chemical compound provided "definitive evidence of exposure to Sarin by almost all of the survivors assessed."
Sarin,  is an organophosphorus compound with the formula . It is a colorless, odorless liquid, used as a chemical weapon owing to its extreme potency as a nerve agent. It has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687

Sarin can be lethal even at very low concentrations, with death following within one minute after direct ingestion due to suffocation from lung muscle paralysis, unless some antidotes, typically atropine or Biperiden and pralidoxime, are quickly administered to a person. People who absorb a non-lethal dose, but do not receive immediate medical treatment, may suffer permanent neurological damage. Like other nerve agents, sarin attacks the nervous system by stopping nerve endings in muscles from switching off. Death will usually occur as a result of asphyxia due to the inability to control the muscles involved in breathing function.

There are so many issues facing the world today that it is sometimes hard to understand why they occur and what they affect.   Today it is apparent that many people take the environment of the earth for granted.   Pollution, energy, and natural resources are all seen as an environmental element that can threaten our future and destroy the environment.   But there is another threat to the environment that is certainly overlooked by today's society and was overlooked by many in the past.   This element is the act of war.   There are many different aspects of war that can affect the environment and the people of our world, but there is one specific facet of war that could be considered most detrimental… chemical warfare.   "Chemical warfare is warfare (and associated military operations) using the toxic properties of chemical substances to kill, injure or incapacitate the enemy" (Chemical Warfare). Chemical weapons can be widely dispersed in gas, liquid and solid forms and may easily afflict others than the intended targets. Nerve gas and tear gas are two modern examples.  But not only does it leave its mark on society and the people of the world, chemical warfare can destroy the unique qualities of nature as well.   The practice of chemical warfare dates back to 1000 B.C and is still used today.   Its impact is nearly everlasting, but still so many people are uneducated on its effects. These weapons kill everyone in any environment where they're deployed. Historically, chemical weapons are inhumane and a horrific way to die—and that's why the most of the world has outlawed them. Chemical warfare is a critical issue of today's society and needs to be dealt with because of its severe impact on our environment and the people of the world.

Earlier one case of such disaster was reported from Vietnam War where approximately 19 million gallons of Agent Orange were used by the US military in southern Vietnam between 1962 and 1971. An aggressive herbicide which defoliates trees, it was used on a large scale in Vietnam’s jungles to enable US troops to spot Communist troops more easily. It eradicated around 15% of South Vietnam’s vegetation, and gave rise to serious health problems for the soldiers, civilians and local wildlife that were exposed to it. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a highly toxic substance that is still detected in the bodies of Vietnamese people today. It contaminated the soil and rivers and, through the food chain, passed into fish - a staple of the Vietnamese diet.

Depleted uranium (DU) is easily ingested by humans because it turns into radioactive dust on impact. As a result, hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers have been exposed to a highly toxic, radioactive substance and have suffered the numerous effects of this. In fact, the World Health Organisation suggests that young children in particular are at great risk because “typical hand-to-mouth activity of inquisitive play could lead to high DU ingestion from contaminated soil.” At least 600,000 pounds of DU and uranium dust were left in the Middle East after the Gulf War. With a half-life of 4.5 billion years, the health effects of DU will be a long-term problem.
CW can have very different effects on health. They are grouped in four categories:
1.      Blister Agents (cause severe skin, eye and mucosal pain and irritation as well as burns)
2.      2. Nerve Agents (disrupt the mechanism by which nerves transfer messages to organs and may lead to death by asphyxiation as control is lost over respiratory muscles)
3.      Choking Agents (cause a build-up of fluids in the lungs which then leads to suffocation)
4.      Blood Agents (affect the body by being absorbed into the blood and cause death      in a matter of minutes through respiratory failure)

The Issue of Depleted Uranium (DU) and Chemical weapons are extraordinarily important. It represents a clear threat to the health of all humanity, and all life forms on planet Earth. Scientists, medical professionals, war veterans, active duty personnel, international lawyers and the global human community must call for awareness of this crisis and simply to stop the use of weapons of mass destruction, in order to preserve life on the planet.

Reference:
http://www.ipb.org/web/index.php?mostra=content&menu=Weapons%20and%20their%20impacts%20on%20communities&submenu=Chemical%20Weapons
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130828-chemical-weapons-syria-attack-military-action-science-world/
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