Nuclear weapons are another post-communist health hazardBMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7510.237-a (Published 21 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:237
- Nick Wilson, senior lecturer, public health ()
EDITOR—In their editorial McKee and Fister highlight many of the major health issues in the post-communist countries of Europe.1 Another critical threat to health is the nuclear weapons in various European countries, and particularly Russia. According to a recent estimate, Russia has 7800 operational nuclear warheads in its arsenal,2 of which about 4400 are strategic warheads. This relic of the cold war poses risks of accidental explosions or of missile launches, since some of these weapons are on high alert status. There is also a risk that actual weapons and fissile materials associated with them could be stolen and sold to terrorists. Maintaining the system for producing and maintaining nuclear weapons is also a drain on national economies—with fewer financial resources available for health and other essential services.
European countries need to accelerate progress towards a Europe that is free of nuclear weapons. In particular, the relevant countries (Russia, France, and the United Kingdom) need to meet their obligations for nuclear disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Other European countries that have US nuclear weapons on their territories (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey3) need to follow Greece (another member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) in having these removed. Without such actions, European and other populations will continue to be threatened by weapons that are not able to deal with the real security threats now facing the world.
Competing interests NW is an active member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)—New Zealand branch.