Safety First

Last modified on July 21st, 2007

I got bored tonight and threw on a few episodes of 24 Season Four. The whole season revolves around a nerve gas attack. While watching it, I thought I would google a bit and find out about the history of nerve gas and its use in warfare. While scanning the Wikipedia entry for nerve gas, I read these paragraphs:

In 1972, The United States Congress banned the practice of disposing chemical weapons into the ocean. However 32,000 tons of nerve and mustard agents had already been dumped into the ocean waters off of the United States by the U.S. Army. According to a 1998 report created by William Brankowitz, a deputy project manager in the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, the Army created at least 26 chemical weapons dumpsites in the ocean off of at least 11 states on both the west and east coasts. Additionally due to poor records, currently they only know the rough whereabouts of half of them.

It is unknown how these dumps of chemical weapons have affected the ocean ecology—it may be responsible for some of the decline in fish populations over the past decades, but no evidence has yet proved a causal relationship between dumping and fish population decline. The steel containers they are contained within face a variable rate of decay and no one is really certain where or how deep they were dumped. If a nerve agent leaks into the ocean, it can last up to six weeks, during which time it will kill every susceptible organism it touches before it breaks down into its nonlethal chemical components.

Who’s bright idea was this? “Hey, we have a pile of really toxic chemical weapons we need to get rid of – why don’t we just dump them into the ocean and lose most of the paperwork?”

It’s nice to know there are stockpiles of nerve gas just sitting around waiting to be plucked, and that a bunch of them are potentially leaking into the surrounding waters and killing everything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *