What are the Effects of an Explosion?

Explosions can affect the physical and mental health of individuals, the environment and the surrounding infrastructure. Explosions can be serious and therefore it is important to understand the impact that explosions can have.

The effects of an explosion can vary depending on the type of explosion that has taken place. Explosions can be chemical, mechanical and nuclear, and all three types of explosion can seriously affect the people, the atmosphere and the surrounding infrastructure. The effects of an explosion persist for many years due to the disruption which has been caused. Therefore, understanding the effects which explosions have is important.


Explosions can inflict severe physical and emotional injuries on the individuals who sadly suffer their effects. The severity and fatality of the injury can change due to the distance which an individual is from the explosion and the type of explosion which has taken place.

The injuries encountered following an explosion are referred to as ‘blast injuries’. Blast injuries can be characterised into primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary injuries.

Primary blast injury: High-order explosives create huge blast waves which go through the body, inflicting a considerable and serious amount of damage to air filled organs. Primary blast injuries affect the lungs, eyes and brain.

Secondary blast injury: These are injuries caused by the debris from the explosion, which penetrates and cuts the skin, creating harmful wounds. Secondary blast injuries are among the most common injuries following an explosion. When an explosion has been intentionally created, for example a bomb, sharp objects and nails might be included which hurt people nearby.

Tertiary blast injury: These injuries occur if an individual is displaced through the air and impacts upon another object, or another object falls onto the individual, due to the force of the explosion. The strength of the blast can result in more severe tertiary injuries, including amputations and spinal injuries.

Quaternary blast injury: This relates to injuries which do not fall under the characterisation for primary, secondary or tertiary injuries, such as radiation, smoke and biological agents.

The injuries which individuals encounter as a result of an explosion are not just physical, they are mental as well. Victims can experience post-traumatic stress and anxiety due to the memory that an explosion has inflicted upon an individual’s mental health.

Environmental Impact

The debris, heat, fumes, residue and energy which is released in an explosion can certainly be harmful to the surrounding atmosphere, ecosystem and vegetation.

Nuclear explosions have huge effects on the environment due to the radiation involved. It has been calculated that a 1 megaton blast from a nuclear bomb poisons everything within a 2-mile radius, with the blast reaching temperatures in the millions of degrees Celsius. The extreme heat of thermal radiation burns everything in contact, such as vegetation and animals. Moreover, radioactive dust falls from the sky, allowing wind and water to carry this harmful dust even further to reach areas that the explosion did not actually touch, allowing it to contaminate even more ecosystems further out.

In April 1986, there was an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, located in Ukraine. This fatal disaster occurred due to a problem with the design of a reactor, which was subsequently operated by personnel who had not received appropriate training. The Chernobyl reactors were capable of producing 1,000 megawatts of electric power. An experiment was conducted on Reactor 4, which was badly designed and resulted in an explosion that broke through the steel and concrete lid on the reactor. Consequently, radioactive material was released into the atmosphere.

An evacuation of 30,000 surrounding inhabitants occurred to try and limit the fatal effect which this radioactive material would have on their health. The workers tried to contain the heat and radioactivity, which was a huge risk to worker health. In 2005, the United Nations predicted that over 4,000 people had died due to the effects that the explosion at Chernobyl had.

The effects that an explosion can have upon the people, environment and infrastructure is startling, and demonstrates how serious explosions can be.

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