Wars have very detrimental economic, social and political effects at the local and international level. Wars also have very harmful effects on the environment and on human health. At present, the war in Ukraine has had a negative impact of chemical pollution affecting air quality, water and soil (1) (2).

“The environmental health impacts of Russia’s war on Ukraine” study describes how war has affected the environment and the health of the population.

Air pollution has affected air quality because of the bombing of fuel storage facilities, including oil depots and oil and gasoline products generating emissions of pollutants from the burning of these substances. There has also been attacks on fertilizer and nitric acid plants resulting in the release of toxic substances (nitric acid and ammonia). The movement of military equipment including war tanks, armoured vehicles and trucks has generated large amounts of dust and fossil-fuel emissions which further contribute to global warming. The destruction of all types of buildings has led to exposures to toxic residues such as alkaline dust, cement particles, glass, asbestos, lead and other heavy metals and organic substances, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Wildfires resulting from the war have led to the exposure to smoke containing fine and coarse particle matter, carbon monoxide, methane, oxides of nitrogen, volatile organic compounds, and many other toxic substances, all of which have an impact on people’s health (3).

Water pollution has been caused directly from the dumping and decomposition of missiles and war equipment, and the release and leaching of explosive residues (perchlorate and nitrate), and indirectly from damage to industrial facilities. The latter contaminated drinking water, thus damaging the health of the population (3). Likewise, Ukraine’s war has led to the destruction of one of the most important dams in the south of the country, resulting in the loss of billions of cubic metres of water, causing floods in a large part of agricultural lands, natural parks and forests; crops and harvests were lost, and fish and animals were also affected. More than a million of hectares of agricultural land will become useless for the next three to five years due to lack of water supply, and land will be more prone to soil erosion and desertification (3).

Soil contamination occurs through the use of munitions and chemical spills from damages to industrial facilities and waste sites. The most persistent contaminants are heavy metals (lead, antimony, chromium, arsenic, mercury, nickel, zinc, cadmium and copper). In conjunction with the war, land is contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance, including artillery shells, grenades, bombs, rockets and missiles, and has affected the structure and function of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Animals such as the steppe eagle, black stork, brown bear, Eurasian lynx and barn owl are on the verge of extinction. Contamination of soil and surface waters adversely affects human and ecosystem health (3).

Although much attention has been paid to the economic, social or political consequences of the war (public health, energy security, food security, etc.) at the national, regional and global levels, further research is needed to gain in-depth understanding of the impact of war on the environment and human health (1).


  1. Meng X, Lu B, Liu C, Zhang Z, Chen J, Herrmann H, et al. Abrupt exacerbation in air quality over Europe after the outbreak of Russia-Ukraine war. Environ Int., 2023;178:108120.
  2. Méndez F, Zapata-Rivera AM. Conflicto armado, contaminación y riesgos en salud: una evaluación de riesgo de tres fuentes de exposición ambiental asociadas con el conflicto en Colombia. Biomédica, 2021;41(4):660-75.
  3. Hryhorczuk D, Levy BS, Prodanchuk M, Kravchuk O, Bubalo N, Hryhorczuk A, et al. The environmental health impacts of Russia’s war on Ukraine. J Occup Med Toxicol Lond Engl., 2024;19(1):1.



Mónica Miriam García Cuéllar
Master’s Degree on Public Health and Health Promotion
OSMAN Scientific Editor