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The prohibition of nuclear weapons: a public health priority

The Lancet. July 16, 2022, DOI:

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine confirms how wars and armed conflicts are a serious threat to public health and environmental integrity. The crisis has made clear that nuclear war is closer than ever.

As people working in the biomedical field, we are urged to stress that any reasoning about just causes of war loses any hypothetical meaning when compared with the destructive potential of modern nuclear technology. The very concept of defence is not applicable to nuclear weapons, which, by their very nature, clearly violate all of the principles enshrined in international humanitarian law and the protocols of the Geneva Conventions.

Nuclear weapons cause immediate damage by death and injury that far exceeds the capacity for health care even in well organised settings. Global health-care infrastructure is not, and cannot, be prepared for the humanitarian catastrophe that would result from the use of these weapons.

The long-term damage to the health of the population and the environment could easily be beyond the resilience, not only of individual countries or territories, but of the entire world. As long as these weapons of mass destruction exist, humanity’s survival is under threat.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force on Jan 22, 2021, and the first meeting of state parties took place in June, 2022. In an open letter to the Italian Government, the Italian Association of Epidemiology urged the Italian government to attend the meeting, with the ultimate goal of signing and ratifying the treaty as soon as possible.


As the Italian historian of medicine, Giorgio Cosmacini, opportunely pointed out in reference to the two world wars: “The fact that no one—or very few—among the protagonists of medicine…has posed the problem of the prevention of one of the deadliest pandemics in the history of human societies should make us reflect on the actual coherence of a medical science that, while professing to be at the service of life, refuses to take sides and declares itself neutral…………………

July 13, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, health, weapons and war

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