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Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

24 April 1999

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The Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts has the obligation and the duty to most seriously warn international scientific and professional community that the latest imprudent bombing of large chemical complexes, oil refineries and other industrial objects in Yugoslavia threatens to provoke a large-scale ecological and humanitarian catastrophe.

It is well-known that ecologically dangerous substances can impact the people directly over air, water and/or food. However, long-term indirect influences, especially consequences of chemical transformations of these substances, as well as their accumulation in soil, river or lake sediments and their quite possible later mobilization, should not be neglected. It is also very important to stress a well-known fact that ecological accidents do not recognize country borders, and that radioactive and cancerous substances, poisons and other pollutants are not selective as far as races and nations, and religious or political affiliations are concerned. That's why world public must be made aware that any dramatic environmental pollution on Serbian territory will, if not immediately, than in the time frame of days, months or years, be conveyed far beyond its borders, thus jeopardizing the population on much larger territory.

Repeated chemical accidents in Yugoslavia may indeed lead to an ecological catastrophe of tremendous scope. Strong winds are blowing over our country in all directions, and thus, not only enable fast, noncontrolled and unpredictable spreading of poisons at large distances, but also make impossible fast and efficient protection of civilian population. Furthermore, the riskiest nonmilitary chemical industry, oil refineries, plastics and fertilizers industry and many more are located on the Danube River which flows through Yugoslavia. Large industrial complexes are also located on the banks of the Sava River. Some of the biggest cities water supply stations are located not far from some of the riskiest plants.

War activities usually bring sudden, noncontrolled explosive release and emmision of highly toxic substances, their waste, spilling, vaporization or sublimation, as well as ignition and combustion of huge amounts of inflammable materials. All these products are transferred into the environment, followed by possible disastrous consequences such as cancerogenic, allergenic, teratogenic and mutagenic effects on the living world.

Not entering into a detailed analysis of numerous chemical accidents that may result from unreasonable NATO military activities, a couple of disturbing examples should necessarily be mentioned: waste of huge amounts of chlorine, ammonia, vinyl chloride as well as its secondary product phosgene, whose concentrations in the air may locally be several hundred or even thousand times larger than permitted; significant emissions of large amounts of highly toxic carbon monoxide, as well as soot and cancerogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the products of incomplete burning of the liquid fuels ignited by bombs; spilling of large amounts of mercury, having its own, very toxic impact on the environment; pollution of rivers by oil and petroleum derivatives, but also by acids, bases, phenols; spilling of pyralene oil from hitted transformers, one liter of which may pollute billion liters of water. All these chemicals may also pollute underground waters, sources of drinking water, having very small self-purification capacity.

Highly toxic hydrofluoric acid, nuclear materials and other environmentally hazardous substances can additionally be mentioned, but we certainly hope that the brief list of potential pollutants, considered above, is large enough to demonstrate the potential dangers from an ecological catastrophe.

Spreading of the mentioned pollutants by air streams or river waters are measured by hundreds and thousands of kilometers.

Finally, we are also obliged to mention the highly combustible anti-armor missiles containing depleted uranium, that are dispersed into very mobile aerosol, distributed by air streams. Beside the alpha-radiation which lasts for centuries, the huge toxicity of uranium should not be forgotten.

Our warning, as well as numerous appeals throughout the world, should absolutely awake the consciousness of the people responsible and bring an immediate cessation of all war activities.

That's why we are asking other academies and respectful institutions to support and urgently join this warning and appeal.


The Presidency of
the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

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