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A Public Health Response to Nuclear Weapons

Guided by the tenet "we must prevent what we cannot cure," physicians and health professionals maintain that the elimination of nuclear weapons is the only cure to the public health threat that these weapons represent. Physicians, medical students, and health professionals are building a movement to inform the public and policymakers about public health solutions to today's growing nuclear dangers.

Nuclear Attack: No Medical Response

A nuclear attack on any city would destroy hospitals and clinics, kill the vast majority of health professionals, wipe out medical supplies, and paralyze communication and transportation systems. It's impossible to "prepare" any city's healthcare infrastructure for nuclear attack—instead, we must eliminate nuclear weapons to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

For the Public Health Response to Nuclear Weapons page

In May 2016, four international health federations representing more than 15 million health professionals submitted an unprecedented joint statement to the UN in support of a prohibition of nuclear weapons based on a medical understanding that an emergency response to the use of nuclear weapons is impossible. The World Medical Association, International Council of Nurses, World Federation of Public Health Associations, and PSR's global federation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, signed the statement. Read the International Health Federation Joint Statement. Since 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross has also advocated for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Famine

PSR's report, Nuclear Famine: 2 Billion People at Risk?, outlines scientific evidence on the global health impacts of a regional nuclear war. The research shows that a regional nuclear war using 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs (less than one percent of the global nuclear stockpile) against cities would have long-term health impacts beyond the immediate casualties and acute injuries from war. Scientific modeling demonstrates that such a regional nuclear war would loft enough soot into the atmosphere to dramatically disrupt the climate and have long-term impacts on worldwide agricultural production. The resulting global famine would put 2 billion people at risk of starvation.

For the "Public Health Response to Nuclear Weapons" page

View and share an infographic summarizing the report.

Read the report.

Ionizing Radiation

Nuclear weapons activities, including their use, production, testing, and waste storage, release ionizing radiation. In addition to the wartime citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, workers, veterans, and civilians living near nuclear weapons sites have been exposed to radiation and suffer acute and long-term illnesses. These illnesses are often lethal and have inter-generational health effects.

Illnesses from radiation exposure include:

  • Leukemia
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Stomach, colon, lung, breast, and thyroid cancers
  • Cataracts
  • Birth defects
  • Infertility
  • Chromosomal aberrations
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Infections
Page Updated September 14, 2017