From the Field: Conference on Weapons Dumped At Sea

bl_conf_chem_weapons_sea2 Just completed a day and a half of international meetings on the environmental, public health, and safety risks with chemical weapons dumped at sea. Organized by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the International Scientific Advisory Board on sea-dumped munitions took place on September 19-20 in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, called the "greenest city" in Europe. Finn Longinotto and I both spoke on the legacies of global sea-dumping of munitions over the last century. Most of the warring powers of the last century have dumped hundreds of thousands of tons of chemical weapons and agents in every ocean of the world (perhaps with the exception of the Antarctic), and this dangerous and harmful legacy is only now becoming recognized by countries and non-governmental organizations as a serious threat to human health.

Presentations revealed fishermen being injured by old chemical agents dragged up in fishing nets in the Baltic, and on striking cancer rates amongst the population of the island of Vieques, off the east coast of Puerto Rico. It all drove home the urgent need to build more public awareness, better scientific understanding, better safety and response mechanisms, and more transparency about major munitions dump sites (both chemical and conventional weapons) across the globe. It's another very important, long-term, and dangerous legacy of war -- and something we will all be paying for and suffering from for generations to come.