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The Impact and Effects of War on the Environment (Air)

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

“Environmental pollution is an incurable disease that can only be prevented”

Air pollution is a real threat to health. The study by WHO reveals that globally 7 million people died because of exposure to air pollution. These increased mortality mainly due to pollutant that are produced during wars. Wars between the countries releases some more toxic and chemical pollutant than that of factory and indoor pollutions. Human life and health are directly, immediately, and fatally affected by war. Military activities itself cause more impact followed by wars. After every war there a dramatic climatic change that directly leads to all the living beings in the world by contamination clean air, drinking water, underground soil, etc.

Warfare has a lengthy history on Earth, and it has 'evolved' dramatically throughout the millennia. A warrior used to leave his home early in the morning to go fight. He knew he'd be reunited with his folks the following evening unless he was murdered or crippled. This, however, has changed over time, with some wars lasting decades or more. The weapons of war are always evolving, moving through stages of growth, despite the fact that the backdrop of conflicts has remained constant. The wood needed to construct bows and arrows was harvested from the forest by ancient warriors.

Source: Conflict and Environment Observatory

Although fire was later added to the arsenal of weaponry, and this must have had an impact on the environment of the day, the forest bore the brunt of the fight, with little impact on the environment's air quality. The consequences of fire generated by natural events like as lightning strikes and volcanic eruptions would undoubtedly have been more severe. Today's wars are vastly different. Present war missiles used air to air, air to surface, surface to air, antiship, and antitank or assault. Where, equipments are heavy and contains toxic fuel, chemical etc,. Apart from destroying the opponents' life, the weapons are diverse and versatile, and can have a variety of impacts, including on the environment and the quality of air humans breathe before, during, and after each such occurrence.

Air pollution caused during development and testing:

The development and testing of all aspects linked to military weapons, hardware, and armament, as well as the essential training in their usage, begin with the impact of war activity on the environment, notably on air pollution. Air pollution mainly impacted during the development, testing, use and the disposal of conventional and chemical weapons. Between 1945 and 2009, a lot of countries worked on nuclear weapons development. It involved over 2000 tests over a 64-year period, and it is undeniable that air quality was greatly influenced by both the chemicals released in the atmosphere and, more importantly, the heat added to the planet's system, which must have influenced the streamlines of natural air flows over land and sea. This unwanted disposal in sewage or biological weapons usage leads to infectious diseases and migrations during the war. According to the EPA 80% of the death occurred due to the toxic chemical release by the weapons and missiles usage.

Modern-day warfare equipments:

Hand grenades, small bombs, cluster bombs, huge bombs, and very large bombs are all examples of weapons that add to the undesired particles in the air. These particles are very light and can settle on any surface or travel with the air they have been mixed with and form a permanent part of the air mass. Bullets are fired in the millions in modern warfare. As a result, their impact on air quality would be significant. Since the beginning of the 20th century the use of bombs and shells intensified, culminating in what is now referred to as ‘carpet bombing’ or ‘strategic bombing’, a feature of war which appeared since just before the WW2.

The above table shows the capacities and relative fuel efficiency of several Air Force aircraft and emissions without aerial refueling.


Almost all of the participants in WW1 deployed chemical weapons. Most of the substances used were intended to provide irritation and to disable them by the injuries they caused during the wars. By starting from world war 1, they continue the usage of various weapons in the future for small wars too. So as we said the production and usage will produce pollutants further in the upcoming years, which is nevertheless the stocked weapons will pollute the environment extremely more than expected in the present and future generation.

The major weapons used in wars:

Nuclear weapon:

During the development of nuclear weapons in the 1940s till now, it is being a huge spread of weapons around the world. In 2000, approximately 32,000 nuclear warheads are placed in at least 8 nations ( such as Russia, the united states, the united kingdom, china, India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan). As per the data in 2003, the US alone contains 10,400 warheads for nuclear weapons. We can take the example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the year 1945 during world war II which was massive devastation in the immediate spreading of radioactive contamination. Almost killed 20,000 peoples immediate during the war. nuclear weapons mainly include some of the toxic materials like: uranium mining, milling, conversion, and enrichment; plutonium production and separation; nuclear fuel transport; other raw material production; and weapon assembly, transport, storage, testing, maintenance and refurbishment, use, and dis- assembly and disposal, including recycling or disposal of all component parts.

Conventional weapon:

Explosives incendiaries and weapons of various sizes, ranging from small arms and light weapons to large artillery and bombs make up conventional weapons. For example, move than 600 that erupted in Kuwait during the Persian gulfwar caused massive environment devastation as well as acute and probably persistent respiratory illness in those who were exposed to the smoke. Some certain kind of weapons are prohibited under united nation convention on certain conventional weapon the following is the non-detectable fragments these conventional arm such as landmines, antipersonnel, inherently indiscriminate which causes unacceptable unitarian harm.

Radiological weapons:

The radiologic consist of radioactive material also mixed with conventional explosives devices. Radiologic weapon also have very serious issues during the attack on nuclear power plant. It can widely spread radioactive material like uranium. Uranium - 235 is a process be in gaseous form which is inhaled through conversion process after the conversion. It will change to a different compound known as uranium hexafloride. These weapons are designed so that it is covered hardened with depleted uranium these are extremely dense toxic.

Isn't it true that air pollution can only causes respiratory illnesses? False– long-term exposure to contaminants in the air can lead to diabetes

“However, we can no longer argue that lifestyle and obesity are the only causes of diabetes because we have people with diabetes who live a good lifestyle and are not obese," said Dr V Mohan of Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre. According to new findings, contaminants inhibit insulin from working correctly and diminish insulin's capacity to lower blood sugar levels, resulting in diabetes.

“Particulate matter in the air which is very fine and is less than 2.5 microns in size is called PM2.5 and has been known to cause diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Especially if people are already predisposed to diabetes, as many Indians are, the pollutants could aggravate the problem,” said professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Ohio State University, Dr Sanjay Rajagopalan.

With India fast emerging as the diabetes capital of the world, it is important for the government to introduce regulatory standards and gradually decrease levels of PM2.5 in the cities.

Benefits of good air quality:

As a result, bettering air quality can have significant health benefits; lowering pollution levels means fewer premature deaths and diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory ailments like asthma. the most dangerous contaminant in the atmosphere. The actual identification and measurement of health impacts, as well as the assessment of monetary values for linked premature mortality and morbidity, are all part of valuing the health impacts of air pollution.


  • Aviation Emissions, Impacts & Mitigation: A Primer, January 2015 (

  • Prevention of War and Its Environmental Consequences (

  • Environment and health (

  • The Effects of War on the Environment (

  • Impact of war (

Blog Written by

Ms. Kaavya Purushoth

M.Tech in Biomedical Engineering

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