A joint editorial published in 11 of the world’s leading medical and health journals said the health community has a crucial role to play in efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear war.
The editorial said “current nuclear arms control and non-proliferation efforts are inadequate to protect the world’s population against the threat of nuclear war by design, error, or miscalculation”.
It calls on health professionals to “alert the public and our leaders to this major danger to public health and the essential life support systems of the planet”.
It points out the modernisation of nuclear arsenals could increase risks of nuclear catastrophe. For example, hypersonic missiles decrease the time available to distinguish between an attack and a false alarm, increasing the likelihood of rapid escalation.
“Once a nuclear weapon is detonated, escalation to all-out nuclear war could occur rapidly. The prevention of any use of nuclear weapons is therefore an urgent public health priority and fundamental steps must also be taken to address the root cause of the problem – by abolishing nuclear weapons,” it said.
The editorial said three immediate steps are required from nuclear-armed states and their allies: first, adopt a no-first-use policy; second, take their nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; and third, urge all states involved in current conflicts to pledge publicly and unequivocally they will not use nuclear weapons in these conflicts.