The late Princess Diana's fears about abandoned munitions could be the least of our worries.
Scientists have assessed the overall impact of grenades and concluded that even during peacetime, stockpiling these munitions can cause significant environmental damage.
Elisabeth Hochschorner and colleagues from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm showed that during peacetime, the mining of metals used in grenade construction and the energy costs needed to produce them cause significant environmental impact. The residues emitted during practice detonations also top the list of harmful effects.
In a wartime situation, mining the copper used to make the grenades damages the earth even more than harmful residues from explosions because the exploded copper cannot be recycled as it is during peacetime decommissioning. The authors suggest that replacing plastic for copper could make grenades greener.
The Swedish study used a method called 'life cycle assessment' (LCA) which has never been applied to munitions before (The Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, DOI 10.1002/jctb.0274).
Dr Steven Young, President of GreenhouseGasMeasurement.com, said the defense industry, one of the biggest industrial sectors, has embraced LCA studies in the past and is "very well positioned" to make progress on environmental issues. It tends to make analytical decisions and has huge purchasing power, he adds.
Article: Hochschorner et al. "Environmental life cycle assessment of a pre-fragmented high explosive grenade." The Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology. (DOI: 10.1002/jctb.1446). Published Online: December 13, 2005.
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