New desk study on Syria identifies pollution risks to civilians

New desk study on Syria identifies pollution risks to civilians

The ongoing conflict in Syria is likely to have a disastrous impact on the environment and public health, according to a new study published by PAX. Four years of fighting has left cities in rubble and caused widespread damage to industrial sites, critical infrastructure and the oil industry. Pollution from these forms of damage is likely to result in acute and chronic risks to civilians and will have a long-term impact on the environment that they depend on. “With the additional attacks by Russia in or near Aleppo, which has […]

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Introducing the Toxic Remnants of War Network

Introducing the Toxic Remnants of War Network

Damage to the natural environment has long been a hallmark of conflict. But technological developments, both in terms of how hostilities are conducted, and the locations in which wars are fought, are increasing the risk of serious long-term environmental damage, and with it, threats to the civilian population. From Ukraine, to Libya, Iraq, Syria and Gaza, environmental damage is threatening lives and livelihoods and increasing the vulnerability of communities. There is a consensus view among legal scholars and, increasingly, international organisations and some states, that International Humanitarian Law’s current provisions […]

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Collateral damage estimates and the acceptability of attacks on industrial sites

Collateral damage estimates and the acceptability of attacks on industrial sites

The deliberate or inadvertent damage or destruction of industrial facilities during conflict has the potential to cause severe environmental damage and create acute and long-term risks to civilians. Can such attacks ever be justified, particularly when the consequences of attacks may be difficult to anticipate with any degree of certainty? Global population growth, and with it increasing levels of industrialisation, is increasing the likelihood that in any given conflict, fighting may occur in areas containing industrial infrastructure. Consequently, the likelihood of damage to such sites is increasing. Industrial sites whose […]

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Judging the civilian and environmental risks of cyber warfare

Judging the civilian and environmental risks of cyber warfare

How much of a threat do cyber attacks on industrial infrastructure pose to civilians and the environment? More to the point, how do we judge the environmental acceptability of new forms of warfare, or current practices for that matter? Doug Weir takes a look. During our first legal workshop on toxic remnants of war in 2012, one attendee questioned how the legality of a cyber attack on an industrial facility that caused a damaging chemical release would be dealt with. In common with others present, we didn’t have a clear […]

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Conflict in Yemen: lessons for citizen environmental monitoring

Conflict in Yemen: lessons for citizen environmental monitoring

The conflict in Yemen is likely to have produced a range of TRW threats for the civilian population but in common with other conflicts, data on environmental risks has been largely absent from the discourse or has been subject to media distortion. Andy Garrity considers whether the approaches used to document the use of cluster munitions during the fighting could help inform citizen and activist data collection on conflict pollution. The Houthi militia uprising in Yemen in 2014 saw the internationally recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansu Hadi flee to neighbouring […]

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Colombia halts aerial coca eradication after WHO Glyphosate cancer ruling

Colombia halts aerial coca eradication after WHO Glyphosate cancer ruling

As predicted on this blog in March, the classification of the commonly used herbicide Glyphosate as a Group 2A carcinogen by the WHO’s International Agency for Cancer (IARC) has placed pressure on the Colombian government to end aerial coca eradication. In a ruling by Colombia’s National Narcotics Council on May 14th, the government elected to end the long running and controversial programme. The council, which oversees national drug policy, had been considering a recommendation from the health minister made in response to IARC’s decision. A previous precautionary ruling from Colombia’s […]

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The Ukraine conflict’s legacy of environmental damage and pollutants

The Ukraine conflict’s legacy of environmental damage and pollutants

One year after violent conflict began, information is now emerging on the specific environmental impact of war in Ukraine’s highly industrialised Donbas region. Although obtaining accurate data is difficult, indications are that the conflict has resulted in a number of civilian health risks, and potentially long-term damage to its environment. In order to mitigate these long-term risks, international and domestic agencies will have to find ways to coordinate their efforts on documenting, assessing and addressing the damage. The environmental legacy of conflict and military activities is rarely prioritised in post-conflict […]

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The civilian health risks from TNT in Syria’s barrel bombs

The civilian health risks from TNT in Syria’s barrel bombs

The TRWP was recently asked to help identify a substance associated with partially detonated barrel bombs in Syria. Syria’s White Helmets, the volunteers who daily risk their lives in the aftermath of attacks, were understandably worried about the potential use of chemical agents by the Assad regime. While the irritant fumes and pink powdery residue appeared to be from TNT and not a chemical weapon, the health risks from exposure to this common explosive are increasingly well understood and should be taken into account when examining the civilian impact of the use […]

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WHO finds that Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic – implications for Plan Colombia

WHO finds that Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic – implications for Plan Colombia

On the 20th March 2015, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the world’s most widely used herbicide Roundup as probably carcinogenic in humans. Roundup is widely used in US supported efforts to destroy poppy and coca fields in Colombia’s long running internal conflict and the decision will add to existing concerns over the health impact of aerial spraying. Based in Lyon, IARC conducts regular reviews of the peer-reviewed literature on chemicals and occupational practices to examine whether they are carcinogenic or can lead to […]

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Military health surveillance – lessons for post-conflict civilian health monitoring

Military health surveillance – lessons for post-conflict civilian health monitoring

Military personnel may come across a number of natural and anthropogenic environmental health risks during training, domestic operations and overseas deployment. Veterans groups and politicians have placed militaries under significant political pressure when exposures have been linked to negative health outcomes. The response has been to seek to integrate data on environmental risks and exposures into health monitoring programmes. Could these systems, and the data they contain, help inform approaches aimed at monitoring the risks to civilians from toxic remnants of war? Vietnam to Kuwait, recording environmental health risks Maintaining […]

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