Terrorism and Public Health: A Balanced Approach to Strengthening Systems and Protecting People

By Barry S. Levy; Victor W. Sidel | Go to book overview

9
Small arms, explosives, and incendiaries

WENDY CUKIER AND ANTOINE CHAPDELAINE

Small arms, explosives, and incendiaries are the weapons used in most terrorist acts. While the use of nonconventional weapons—weapons of mass destruction—must not be ignored, small arms, explosives, and incendiaries have had a more significant impact so far, as recorded terrorist events in recent years demonstrate.1,2The World Health Organization (WHO) set a priority on violence and injury prevention in 19963because studies projected that injury, violence, and war will be among the leading causes of death until the year 2020.4From a public health perspective, these injuries have one factor in common5: they are caused by the inappropriate discharge of energy from a small arm, explosion of a bomb, or incendiary device—whether an AK-47, a Molotov cocktail, or a fuel-laden commercial airplane.

Most injuries are caused by abnormal energy transfers or interference with energy transfers:6mechanical or kinetic energy (which accounts for threefourths of all injuries), such as from missiles, bullets, shrapnel, debris, and motor-vehicle crashes; thermal energy, such as a Molotov cocktail or napalm; chemical energy, such as a chemical blast; radiation energy, such as from “dirty bombs” (Chapter 12); electrical energy, like that released from a cattle prod or a stun gun used as a weapon; or the absence of essentials—such as oxygen, due to carbon monoxide poisoning after a blast. Injury-preven-

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