Another war victim - the environment

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Torstai 27.4.2023 klo 17:09 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Among military professionals, toxicologists are an important group. They evaluate especially the environmental toxicity of ammunition. Apart from the actual bullets the explosives are of important concern. The information obtained can be summed up in short: the toxicity of ammunition is likely to affect the ecosystem in the vicinity of military practice grounds, shooting range, and military operations.

EU has banned lead shots in shotguns in wetlands because of the significant toxicity of lead to animals living there. It is not just overreaction by animal welfare people, but hundreds of articles show that lead from shotgun ammunition causes poisoning in aquatic areas. However, in comparison to the warfare carried out in the last years, the use of ammunition in hunting is minor. One would thus expect that the effects of chemicals in ammunition to the biota in the areas where war is fought is much larger than that of lead in wetlands.

We are daily reminded about the thousands of rounds of ammunition that are shot in Ukrainian soil. Shooting as such affects wildlife, but the toxic chemicals, explosives and metal – especially lead – ions, will make the environment quite unhealthy to animals (and also plants) for years to come. It is also significant that rains leach the toxic substances to areas, which otherwise would not experience significant contamination.

It is impossible to set numbers to the contamination caused by military operations. However, one may bear in mind that contamination issues are still significant in Vietnam, about 50 years after the end of the war. I am afraid that the environmental impact of Russian attack on Ukraine will be even worse than that of Vietnam war, as the amount of ammunition used daily is larger than in Vietnam.

Avainsanat: ammunition toxicity, Ukrainian environment, lead toxicity, explosives

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