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Historic Disposal of Munitions in U.S. and European Coastal Waters, How Historic Information Can be Used in Characterizing and Managing Risk

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Abstract

Sea disposal of wastes from industry and government was accepted internationally as a safe and efficient practice until the 1970s. Options available for addressing excess, obsolete, and unserviceable munitions prior to the 1970s were limited to salvage, destruction by open detonation or open burning, or burial on land or at sea. Sea disposal of conventional and chemical munitions and other waste material was considered appropriate until the enactment of the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter in 1972 and its 1996 Protocol prohibiting sea disposal of chemical and biological agents. The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention contains a similar ban. Sea-disposed munitions pose two types of risk. These are acute—injury or death caused by either detonation or direct exposure to chemical agents—and chronic—adverse health impacts resulting from prolonged exposure to munition constituents. The type and configuration of sea-disposed munitions, disposal location, water body properties (e.g., depth, current), and its usage (e.g., commercial fishing, recreation, pipeline construction) are factors in determining the relative risk posed by munitions. The collection, analysis, and sharing of historical information allow more efficient investigation and management of risks from sea-disposed munitions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-09-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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