"American teams may be struggling to find chemical weapons and other poisonous materials in Iraq," the New York Times reports, "but tens of thousands of bombs and barrels filled with blistering agents and nerve gas lie scattered in the Baltic Sea and the eastern Atlantic."
American, British and Soviet military dumped them there after World War II. Entire ships full of weapons, most of them captured from Nazi Germany, were scuttled for disposal and forgotten. Now they have come back to haunt the environment.Over time, scientists say, the weapon casings have corroded in the seawater and become brittle, allowing poisons like arsenic, lewisite, mustard gas and sarin to leach out. Scientists from the Baltic countries and Russia have found lethal material mixed in with sediments, and highly toxic sulfur mustard gas, transformed into brown-yellow clumps of gel, has washed ashore.The problem is compounded by fishermen who have gone into risky areas to chase depleted fish stocks, using increasingly aggressive methods, including bottom tackle that snag the bombs. They routinely find mustard gas clumps among their catch and haul up whole or damaged chemical bombs in their nets.