Toxic Remnants of War

The term toxic remnants of war (TRW) refers to “any toxic or radiological substance resulting from military activities that forms a hazard to humans or ecosystems.” Toxic remnants of war come from a range of sources, including: the use or testing of certain types of weapons, such as nuclear weapons, Agent Orange, and depleted uranium; the bombing of industrial facilities, which can release pollution; the setting of oil fires; and the burning of military waste. Formed in 2015, the Toxic Remnants of War Network has raised awareness of this issue at the international level and worked to promote measures to reduce the humanitarian and environmental impact of pollution from conflict and military activities.

Credit: U.S. Army, date unknown

Since 2013, the International Law Commission has been working to develop principles on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts; the principles address toxic and hazardous remnants of war, data sharing and transparency, and cooperation on post-conflict assessments and remedial measures. The UN Environment Assembly passed resolutions in 2016 and 2017 on the protection of the environment in areas affected by conflict and on the mitigation of conflict pollution.