Developing, managing, and sharing knowledge on natural resources, conflict, and peacebuilding
Library / Briefs & Development
Source: Medicine, Conflict and Survival (Routledge), 2015
Author(s): Doug Weir
Topics: Assessment, Programming, Renewable Resources, Weapons, Waste, and Pollution
The impact of environmental pollution on public health is increasingly well documented in peacetime (WHO and UNEP 2015). Assessing and monitoring environmental risks has become a key function of governments, as have efforts to reduce emissions and exposures through legislation. While such efforts have been hard fought at times, regulatory successes on water quality, air pollution and chemicals safety continue to contribute towards reducing exposures to potentially hazardous substances.
Although specific standards and approaches vary between states and regions, taken as a whole, legislative approaches seek to identify hazardous substances, regulate their use, minimize their release, assess and remedy pollution incidents and examine and address their health and environmental impact. This normative harm reduction framework was developed to protect human health and the environment from pollution, and it is widely applied within the civil sphere. However, one area where it has yet to be fully applied is conflict and its associated military activities. Because of this, the public health legacy of the toxic remnants of war remains understudied and, as a result, inadequately addressed.
This commentary will examine sources of conflict pollution and the challenges and opportunities they present for civilian and environmental protection before, during and after conflict. It will also call on the public health community to engage more fully in the topic as efforts to assess and address the impact of these toxic remnants of war on civilian health are explored.