Environmental Effects Of Weapons
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.
Apart from the serious human health effects of Agent Orange - which include cancer and birth defects - the rapid loss of vegetation that it causes leads to severe soil erosion. This contributes to a major drop in species population due to habitat degradation. High concentrations of dioxin persist in the land, and ecosystems have suffered irreversible damage.
The impact of chemical weapons dumping by the Japanese Army in China is thought to be just as severe.
While many of the chemicals used in war break down relatively quickly, biological weapons pose an even greater threat than chemical weapons because it may be impossible to reverse the effects of an organism that has been unleashed into the environment.
The fear of an attack from biological weapons is greater than ever because, of all weapons of mass destruction, they are the easiest and cheapest to produce. At the most basic level, bio-terrorist attacks against people only require access to natural diseases that can cause disastrous epidemics – laboratory cultures or specialised disease strains are not necessary. Natural diseases are common, widely distributed and easily acquired and...