Iraq records huge rise in birth defects. New study links increase with military action by Western forces … It played unwilling host to one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war. Fallujah's homes and businesses were left shattered; hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed. Its residents changed the name of their "City of Mosques" to "the polluted city" after the United States launched two massive military campaigns eight years ago. Now, one month before the World Health Organisation reveals its view on the legacy of the two battles for the town, a new study reports a "staggering rise" in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war. High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad. – UK Independent
Dominant Social Theme: We did what we had to do but no harm was done.
Free-Market Analysis: People in the West would be shocked to know that their taxes had funded the wholesale poisoning of parts of the Middle East and Afghanistan but increasingly, that's how it seems.
We've written about it before numerous times. The culprit is depleted uranium and the powers-that-be have been "studying" for years and years the possibility that the radioactive dust from NATO and US weapons is a deadly poison.
What is depleted uranium? Here is a brief summary of Wikipedia information, posted at Yahoo Answers:
Depleted uranium (DU) is uranium primarily composed of isotope uranium (u-238) natural uranium is about 99.27% u-238, 0.72% U-235, and 0.0055% U-234. U-235 is used for fission in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Uranium is enriched in U-235 by separating the isotopes by mass. The byproduct of enrichment, called depleted uranium or DU, contains less than one third as much U-235 and U-234 as natural uranium. The external radiation dose from DU is about 60% of that from the same mass of natural uranium. DU is also found in reprocessed spent nuclear reactor fuel, but that kind can be distinguished from DU produced as a byproduct of uranium enrichment by the presence of U-236. In the past, DU has been called Q-metal, depletalloy, and D-38.
DU is useful because of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3 (68.4% denser than lead). Civilian uses include counterweights in aircraft, radiation shielding in medical radiation therapy and industrial radiography equipment, and containers used to transport radioactive materials. Military uses include defensive armor plating and armor-piercing projectiles.
The use of DU in munitions is controversial because of questions about potential long-term health effects. Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure, because uranium is a toxic metal. It is weakly radioactive and remains so because of its long physical half-life (4.468 billion years for uranium-238). The biological half-life (the average time it takes for the human body to eliminate half the amount in the body) for uranium is about 15 days. The aerosol produced during impact and combustion of depleted uranium munitions can potentially contaminate wide areas around the impact sites leading to possible inhalation by human beings. During a three week period of conflict in 2003 in Iraq, 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of DU munitions were used.
The actual acute and chronic toxicity of DU is also a point of medical controversy. Multiple studies using cultured cells and laboratory rodents suggest the possibility of leukemogenic, genetic, reproductive, and neurological effects from chronic exposure. A 2005 epidemiology review concluded: "In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU." The World Health Organization, the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations which is responsible for setting health research norms and standards, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends, states that no risk of reproductive, developmental, or carcinogenic effects have been reported in humans due to DU exposure. This report has been criticized by Dr. Keith Baverstock for not including possible long term effects of DU on human body.
Interestingly, the article in the UK Independent doesn't get around to mentioning depleted uranium until the very end. The article focuses mostly on mercury and lead as prime causes of birth defects – though eventually we learn that both metals are indeed related to weaponry.
The findings, published in the Environmental Contamination and Toxicology bulletin, led to a World Health Organization inquiry – and that's what precipitated the current coverage. The WHO's report deals with nine "high-risk" areas in Iraq, Fallujah and Basra among them. Here's more from the article:
The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010. Before the siege, this figure was more like one in 10. Prior to the turn of the millennium, fewer than 2 per cent of babies were born with a defect. More than 45 per cent of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10 per cent before the bombing. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage.
The new research, which looked at the health histories of 56 families in Fallujah, also examined births in Basra, in southern Iraq, attacked by British forces in 2003. Researchers found more than 20 babies out of 1,000 were born with defects in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital in 2003, a number that is 17 times higher than recorded a decade previously. In the past seven years, the number of malformed babies born increased by more than 60 per cent; 37 out of every 1,000 are now born with defects.
The report's authors link the rising number of babies born with birth defects in the two cities to increased exposure to metals released by bombs and bullets used over the past two decades. Scientists who studied hair samples of the population in Fallujah found that levels of lead were five times higher in the hair of children with birth defects than in other children; mercury levels were six times higher. Children with defects in Basra had three times more lead in their teeth than children living in non-impacted areas.
Dr Savabieasfahani said that for the first time, there is a "footprint of metal in the population" and that there is "compelling evidence linking the staggering increases in Iraqi birth defects to neuro-toxic metal contamination following the repeated bombardments of Iraqi cities". She called the "epidemic" a "public health crisis".
We've been reporting this for years not because of any special insight but because there have been hundreds if not thousands of mainstream reports on the toxicity of depleted uranium. You can see one of our articles here:
It is disturbing and saddening – sickening, really – that the WHO after all this time is finally providing a report on the subject. No doubt that will lead to another study and another report, etc. (Excuse our cynicism.)
Meanwhile, women in parts of Iraq are told not to have babies because the chances of birth defects are so high. All across these regions is spread a fine haze of radioactivity with a half-life in the thousands of years.
US and NATO troops are not immune. They are apparently being poisoned by their own weaponry, though one can make case that vaccines like the anthrax jab are also to blame for the many debilitating syndromes being reported among troops.
The US Army pursued business-as-usual. According to the article, a US Defense Department spokesperson commented: "We are not aware of any official reports indicating an increase in birth defects in Al Basrah or Fallujah that may be related to exposure to the metals contained in munitions used by the US or coalition partners …
"We always take very seriously public health concerns about any population now living in a combat theatre. Unexploded ordnance, including improvised explosive devises, are a recognised hazard."
For the Defense Department, the danger comes from unexploded ordnance. Unfortunately, the real danger seems to be radioactive dust and the blind denials from the US (and presumably NATO) are either normal commerce or something more damning. How about a war crime?