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article imageWeapons buried at sea are a major threat to marine life: Study

By Kesavan Unnikrishnan     Nov 14, 2016 in Environment
At least one million tons of chemical weapons dumped after the world wars lie rusting on the ocean floor. As the metal rusts away, the toxic chemicals will be exposed threatening marine life around them, scientists warn.
In the months following World War I and II, numerous countries dumped thousands of tons of bombs, ammunition, mines and chemical weapons containing some of the world’s most deadly chemicals into the ocean. There are dump sites in waters around the world with several of them undocumented during the dumping operation.
An international team of scientists aided by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme are looking for signs of environmental damage and mapping the sea floor, locating munitions dump sites in the Baltic Sea. A press release from NATO's SPS indicates the potential threats from the chemical dump.
Experts estimate that the spreading of only one sixth of the 50,000 tons of munitions can ruin the habitat in the Baltic Sea for an entire century. Since incidental or deliberate breaches of munitions cannot be excluded, dumped chemical weapons present a real threat to the environment and the population in the Baltic Sea region.
No detailed studies have been conducted in Baltic Sea to assess the magnitude of the effect of different chemical warfare agents towards marine organisms. Contemporary scientific studies in other marine regions have indicated that adverse effects are possible for marine life.
It is also believed that dumping operations have occurred in relatively shallow waters off the coast of Japan and off the coast of several European countries. U.S. Army dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste into the waters spanning 11 states.
The London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution , enacted in 1972, made it illegal to dump weapons in the ocean. But by the time this treaty, millions of tons of munitions were known to have been disposed throughout the world’s oceans.
More about Chemical weapons, Marine life, ocean floor
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