Unexploded ordnance (UXO) poses a threat not only to civilian human life, but also to the environment, which is why it is so important to dispose of any unexploded bombs, land mines and other devices correctly.
The explosive remnants of war can vary from those placed deliberately, such as land mines, to those left behind accidentally, such as discarded bullets, hand grenades and unexploded bombs.
All of these devices by definition contain explosives – and that can lead to significant environmental harm if those volatile chemicals leak out of the casing, even without the UXO detonating.
Here are some of the most severe environmental effects of explosive remnants of war and why bomb disposal should be made a priority, but also left to the professionals.
Impact on wildlife
Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) estimate that one in 20 modern weapons fails to detonate, leaving behind a toxic legacy of explosive materials.
Elements and compounds found in explosives range from lead and uranium, to dinitrotoluene and trinitrotoluene (TNT) and even the exterior casing can be made from harmful metals like lead or copper.
These toxic materials can contaminate farming soil and water, and are particularly harmful to aquatic life, making surveys of UXO at sea equally as important as they are on land – we’ll look at this in more detail below.
Impact on humans
The potential health impact on humans from unexploded bombs again does not stop if the device fails to explode.
Some of the chemicals already mentioned above – notably TNT – can damage healthy cells, leading to an increased risk of cancer, anaemia, and liver damage.
Explosives can persist for a long time in the environment, and those still contained within their casing can start to leak at any time due to corrosion, so it’s impossible to predict when UXO will become a direct risk to health.
At the same time, there are of course the risks of unexploded bombs detonating, along with the time it takes to fully clear UXO from a war zone; AOAV predict it would take over 30 years to clear Syria completely, and at least 15 years to clear Ukraine.
The impact of UXO on marine environments, including aquatic mammals, should be of particular concern. At UXO Groundworks we use low order techniques for the render safe procedure when working in the marine environment.
By doing so, we ensure aquatic life and marine mammals do not experience the full shock of the ordnance’s intended explosive yield. We have entered into an agreement with Precision Energetics, a market-leading weapons manufacturer, to supply us with the low order technique weapons system required.
This allows us to dispose of marine UXO safely while protecting the environment at sea, so offshore projects can continue without delay and without harm to animal life.