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Related Global Problems

The U. S. military defines "weapons of mass destruction" as "Chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons capable of a high order of destruction or causing mass casualties. Also called WMD." A related acronym is NBC, which in this context has nothing to do with a major television network, but denotes weapons of a Nuclear, Biological or Chemical nature.

However, as Wikipedia notes: "...nuclear and biological weapons have the unique ability to kill large numbers of people with very small amounts of material, and thus could be said to belong in a class by themselves." Of course, if you are one of those affected, the distinction is academic.

But those are worries only for wartime, and the threat of these weapons is distant from our everyday lives - unless terrorists get them - right? Wrong. The threat of the materials is with us every day, and it does not take an act of war or terroism to release them. Disasters in the manufacture and transport of toxic chemicals, nuclear reactor accidents, antibiotic-resistant diseases created by the overuse of antibiotics in the raising of livestock... the list goes on. All have taken their toll in terms of the lives and health of humans, animals, and ecosystems. Sarnia's "Chemical Alley" industries are hardly alone in adversely affecting life around them.

Below are a few examples.


Chemical

Bhopal

"The Bhopal disaster was an industrial catastrophe that took place at a pesticide plant owned and operated by Union Carbide (UCIL) in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Around midnight on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, the plant released methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other toxins, resulting in the exposure of over 500,000 people. Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Other government agencies estimate 15,000 deaths. Others estimate that 8,000 died within the first weeks and that another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases."

Wikipedia: Bhopal Disaster

Harbin

"This month's toxic spill into China's Songhua River forced the evacuation of thousands of people; poisoned the water supply for millions in northeast China, including Harbin, the region's major city; and now threatens the supply for as many as 70 downstream Russian cities and villages."

"Beyond the Harbin Chemical Spill", Joshua Muldavin, International Herald Tribune

Love Canal

"Love Canal is a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, which became the subject of national and international attention, controversy, and eventual environmental notoriety following the discovery of 21,000 tons of toxic waste that had been buried beneath the neighborhood by Hooker Chemical."

Wikipedia: Love Canal

Gulf War Oil Spill

"The Gulf War oil spill is regarded as the worst oil spill in history, resulting from actions taken during the Gulf War in 1991 by the Iraq military."

Wikipedia: Gulf War Oil Spill

Baia Mare Cyanide Spill

"An accidental cyanide spill in the city of Baia Mare in north-west Romania on March 1 2000 devastated river life in three countries. More than 100,000 cubic metres of cyanide-tainted water leaked from a gold mine near the city. It quickly contaminated the nearby rivers, killing fish which feed into the larger Tisza and Danube rivers. Environmentalists estimated the leak killed 80 per cent of the marine life in the Tisza."

MSN.Environment

"It was called the worst disaster since Chernobyl. A wave of cyanide and heavy metals spilled from a gold processing plant in Romania and moved quickly from one river to the next, through Romania, Hungary, Serbia, and Bulgaria, killing tens of thousands of fish and other wildlife and poisoning drinking water."

All Academic: Research

Exxon Valdez

"The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in the Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever to occur in history."

Wikipedia: Exxon Valdez

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Nuclear

Chernobyl

"An explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power reactor in Ukraine, on April 26 1986, killed 31 people and sent large amounts of dangerous radioactive material across western Europe. The disaster released at least 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. More than 200,000 people in the eastern European countries of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were forced to relocate."

MSN.Environment: Chernobyl disaster

"The Chernobyl disaster (Ukrainian: Cornobylska katastrofa), was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (then part of the Soviet Union), now in Ukraine. It is considered to be the worst nuclear power plant accident in history and the only level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale. It resulted in a severe release of radioactivity due to a power excursion that destroyed one of the site's reactors."

Wikipedia: Chernobyl Disaster

Three Mile Island

"The Three Mile Island accident was a partial core meltdown in Unit 2 (a pressurized water reactor manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox) of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg. It was the most significant accident in the history of the American commercial nuclear power generating industry, resulting in the release of up to 481 PBq (13 million curies) of radioactive gases."

Wikipedia: Three Mile Island Accident

Biological

Times Beach, Missouri

"Times Beach, Missouri was a small town of 2,240 residents in St. Louis County, Missouri, 17 miles (27 km) southwest of St. Louis and 2 mi (3 km) east of Eureka, Missouri. The town was completely evacuated early in 1983 due to a dioxin scare that made national headlines. It was the largest civilian exposure to dioxin in the United States."

Wikipedia: Times Beach, Missouri

Is agriculture promoting antibiotic resistance?

"...this from two scientists from the World Health Organization: 'There is growing concern that the control of infectious diseases is threatened by the upward trend in the numbers of bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics in the medical armamentarium.' "

"The Why Files", University of Wisconsin

Team Tracks Antibiotic Resistance From Swine Farms to Groundwater

"The migration of antibiotic resistance from animal feeding operations into groundwater has broad implications for human and ecological health. There are roughly 238,000 animal feeding operations in the U.S., which collectively generate about 500 million tons of manure per year. Groundwater comprises about 40 percent of the public water supply, and more than 97 percent of the drinking water used in rural areas."

Terra Daily

Biological Pollution: An Emerging Global Menace

"Biological pollutants, like chemical pollutants, are here because of human activities. But unlike chemical pollutants, biological pollutants cannot be reduced or prevented by legislation. Once biological pollutants are imported, they grow, adapt, multiply and spread on their own unless direct, vigorous, and often costly actions are taken to stop them. "

CPL Scientific Publishing Services

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