Nuclear weapons in various European countries, particularly Russia, pose a serious threat to health, argues a letter in this week's British Medical Journal.
Recent estimates are that Russia alone has 7,800 operational nuclear warheads - some of which are on high alert status says Nick Wilson, a public health lecturer and member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Their continued presence means that accidental explosion or missile launch is always a threat. There is also a risk of nuclear weapon materials being stolen or sold on to terrorists, he argues.
Maintaining these weapons eats in to national economies adds the author, leaving less funds for healthcare and other vital services.
The threat posed by these weapons can only be tackled if European countries progress quickly towards a Europe free of nuclear weapons, and relevant countries - particularly Russia, France and the UK - meet their nuclear disarmament obligations. Within Europe, states with US nuclear weapons based on their territories should follow Greece in removing these weapons, says the author.
These weapons are "not able to deal with real security threats now facing the world", concludes the author. Unless removed they will continue to put European countries and others at risk.
Letter: Nuclear weapons are another post-communist health hazard BMJ Volume 331, p 237
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