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2022 Essay Competition Winner – Nazmeen A


Take a look at one of this year’s winning entries to the Immerse Education Essay Competition from the Earth Sciences category.

Congratulations to all participants and in particular to those who have won 100% scholarships!

How do chemical spills and atomic bomb blasts adversely affect the environment of the incident?

by Nazmeen A

With approximately 214,000 dead [1] and 90% of one of Japan’s biggest cities left completely obliterated [2], the impacts of nuclear weapons are often overlooked; these are just two primary effects of the very first use of nuclear weapons in human history. While recorded chemical spills haven’t had the same drastic impact as Hiroshima, it would be imprudent to say they haven’t had effects worthy of acknowledgement. In this essay, I will be exploring the detrimental environmental impact of chemical spills and atomic bomb blasts by embedding ideas from the case study of the Nigerian Bodo oil spill (2008-2009) and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki of 1945 respectively; and specifically, how these events have impacted marine life.

The World Health Organization defines a chemical spill as the “uncontrolled release of a toxic substance.” [3]. One issue is the effect it has on marine life and water quality. The two Bodo oil spills in Bodo, Nigeria, in 2008 and 2009 are key instances of this. Due to corporate neglect, a staggering 600,000 barrels of crude oil leaked into the surrounding town and Niger Delta over 72 days. [4]

According to Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International, over 49 million litres of crude oil were spilt into the world’s second-largest delta. [5] The oil coated all sea life, killing them via suffocation. The layer of oil that had settled on the water’s surface prevented any oxygen from permeating it, rendering it anoxic and killing off all its marine life. Animals with reliance on aquatic creatures for food were severely impacted, and the domino effect spared no organisms. Roughly 50,000 people in Bodo rely on fishing and farming for a living; many were forced out of income, threatening thousands of livelihoods.

Nuclear warfare has consequences just as devastating, if not worse. The most severe environmental impacts are brought about by the high amount of radiation emitted by explosions. The atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 are the only case studies of nuclear warfare to date. Along with flattening the majority of Hiroshima, the intense heat ignited massive fires that raged across the city, destroying everything that remained. These individual fires combined to form a raging firestorm. Immediate consequences include the burning of 13 square miles of Hiroshima and flames engulfing 22.7% of Nagasaki’s buildings. [6] Significant amounts of ash and other harmful emissions (such as radioactive gases), as well as smoke particles, were released into the atmosphere by the firestorm, which “had the effect of ‘seeding’ the clouds”, causing a period of black rain for a few hours [7], considerable exacerbating the state of the targeted environment; marine life was killed and land animals that had survived suffered from diseases such as diarrhoea. [8]

Chemical spills and atomic bomb blasts have horrifying and widespread environmental consequences that are still being felt today. While there was much more to be said, both events resulted in the extinction of marine life. Perhaps, in the future, these impacts could provoke second thought before more acts of human carelessness and recklessness.


[1] ‘Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’, Atomic Heritage Foundation, 2017, https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/survivors-hiroshima-and-nagasaki, (accessed 31 August 2022)

[2] Elias Beck, ‘Reasons Against the Atomic Bombing of Japan’, History Crunch, 2016,
https://www.historycrunch.com/reasons-against-the-atomic-bombing-of-japan.html, (accessed 31 August

[3] ‘Chemical incidents’, Who.int, https://www.who.int/health-topics/chemical-incidents/#tab=tab_1, (accessed 31 August 2022)

[4] Abigail Daisy Morgan, ‘Long-term effects of oil spills in Bodo, Nigeria’, Al Jazeera, 2017,
https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2017/7/28/long-term-effects-of-oil-spills-in-bodo-nigeria/#:~:text=Longterm%20effects%20of%20oil%20spills%20in%20Bodo%2C%20Nigeria,devastated%20by%20the%20Shell%20oil%20spills%20of%202008-2009. , (accessed 31 August 2022)

[5] ‘Shell’s wildly inaccurate reporting of Niger Delta oil spill exposed’, Amnesty International, 2012,
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2012/04/shell-s-wildly-inaccurate-reporting-niger-delta-oil-spillexposed/#:~:text=The%20previously%20unpublished%20assessment%2C%20carried%20out%20by%20 US,confirmed%20that%20the%20spill%20lasted%20for%2072%20days, (accessed 31 August 2022)

[6] ‘Hiroshima and Nagasaki –‘, Cnduk.org,
https://cnduk.org/resources/hiroshima-and-nagasaki/, (accessed 31 August 2022)

[7] ‘Black Rain’, Museum of Radiation and Radioactivity,
(accessed 31 August 2022)

[8] Shizuyo Sutou, ‘Black rain in Hiroshima: a critique to the Life Span Study of A-bomb survivors, basis of
the linear no-threshold model’, BMC, 2020, https://genesenvironment.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41021-019-0141-8#citeas, (accessed 31
August 2022)

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